Story by: Megan Francke on August 14, 2017
Sleep had never come easy to me. I went to bed happy and tired. My parents tucked me in and I closed my eyes. But nothing happened. I could not sleep. I felt yucky. I did not know why. There was no explanation. Until one day there was.
When I was in the first grade, several times a week I would go in my parents’ room crying about my belly. My mom took me to see my pediatrician, Dr. Andrew Donovan (Dr. Donut to me), for the third or fourth time in as many weeks. This time he said, “Let’s rule out the scary stuff.” He scheduled me for an MRI.
A few minutes after getting home from the MRI, Dr. Donut called my mom. He carefully chose his words as he told her that it was the scary stuff — I had a brain tumor. My parents didn’t tell me the whole story until I was older. They didn’t want to scare me.
I immediately went to Norton Children’s Hospital. After a night of MRIs, CT scans, pricks and probes, tears and prayers, the next morning, neurosurgeon Dr. William Gump, during a 10-hour surgery, removed most of the brain tumor we had named “the stupid tumor.”
I spent about a week in the hospital. I had to relearn to sit up, feed myself and walk again. I figured out how to turn my neck, which was crazy sore. But I got to go home healthy, grateful and certain the worst of my journey was behind me. Only to learn 18 months later, that it wasn’t. The stupid tumor came back.
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The second surgery was shorter. The stupid tumor was much smaller. Dr. Gump was fairly certain he was able to remove all that was left of that stupid tumor. Thank goodness. I am so very grateful for the doctors and nurses at Norton Children’s Hospital. Stephanie and Kristy were two of my favorite nurses.
Norton Children’s Cancer Institute offers Kentucky’s only Adolescent and Young Adult Program and transition clinic. Other unique services include a multidisciplinary pediatric brain tumor program and cell transplant program, plus immunotherapy, a cancer vaccine, sickle cell treatment and survivorship programs.
To connect with AYA cancer services,
call (502) 629-KIDS.
Stephanie’s smile always made me feel better. Kristy would sneak me in some special mac-and-cheese, my favorite. She put a sign on my door that said “VIP”: very important patient. I felt special there. I will never forget the way they cared for me.
I don’t know how long the doctors and nurses have been there or how long they will stay. I don’t know why they chose the careers they chose. But I know that they have special hearts and souls that give them the grace and strength to do what they do. They could have chosen easier paths, but they chose to care for people — not just people — but kids.
This journey changed me. It changed my family. We are closer to each other and to God. I try to find opportunities to use my story to help others. I even wrote a letter to Kyle Kuric when he had a brain tumor. He wrote me back — that was pretty cool!
Now I get MRIs every six months to make sure the stupid tumor is not coming back. So far, so good. I am a pretty typical seventh-grader. I hang with my friends. I do my homework. I sing in the Louisville Youth Choir. I beg my mom for Snapchat, which she won’t let me have. I am happy and grateful. Oh, and I sleep a lot better, too.