Editors Note-This is part one of a two part series. Part two will run in next Sunday’s edition of the Community Common.
For her 22nd birthday, Jessie Myers received a gift no one would want…a brain cancer diagnosis.
After what had been a long and confusing few weeks of suffering from severe headaches, nose bleeds, and what was thought to have been a stroke, Jessie finally got an answer as to what was going on with her, and unfortunately that answer was a grade II astrocytoma.
In June, while working in Columbus as a Preschool teacher, Jessie had her first episode. “There was a day when I had a horrible headache, and nosebleed, and I lost all control of my left side, along with my speech and vision. I was rushed to Riverside Hospital, they said it was a stroke and kept me for a few days. They let me go home and I was fine for a while, still having the headaches and nosebleeds. I had another moment where I lost control of my left side, and they decided it wasn’t a stroke, it was either multiple sclerosis or a brain tumor,” said Myers. “On my birthday, July 21st, they came and woke me up, they told me they were going to do a spinal tap to determine if it was MS or a brain tumor. They did the spinal tap, and we waited. They came back and told me it was a brain tumor.”
As everything was happening so quickly around her, Myers could only hope that the tumor was benign.
On August 24th, Jessie went for a biopsy and learned a week later that the tumor was, in fact, cancerous. “We had to call everyone in the family after that and break the news,” said Myers.
On September 21st, Myers underwent brain surgery in attempts to remove her tumor, but surgeons were unable to remove it in its entirety. “They had to leave one inch of the tumor located in the basal ganglia, because it was inoperable”, said Myers. “They said no matter what happens, they will never be able to remove that section of the tumor because of its location.”
Jessie was fitted for her radiation mask on October 26th, and is preparing to undergo 27 treatments of radiation beginning November 6th, followed by a full year of chemo therapy. Until radiation begins, Myers remains in good spirits, although the sickness takes a heavy toll.
“I always have a headache, and I always feel tired. Some days are worse than others, but I always have that feeling of being sick,” said Myers.
“The way I see it is, cancer doesn’t kill you, your attitude while you have cancer does. If you stay pretty positive about things there’s a pretty good chance you’ll either pass that positivity on, or you’re going to survive. I try to keep that outlook on everything.”
Jessie doesn’t want to be pitied for her diagnosis, instead she wants to keep a positive attitude and take this next year in stride. “I want to be someone that people want to cheer on,” said Myers.
Throughout her ongoing fight, Jessie says it is the people around her that help her get through each day.
“People are what matter when you’re sick, if you don’t have people on your side then you’re in a world of trouble. I have some really great people to lean on.”
“I wouldn’t be here without a handful of very special people in my support system. My mother, my sister, my best friend Kayla, her brother, and my mamaw are the backbone to my recovery, absolutely, Said Myers.
“In my opinion, if there’s anything brave about coming out about cancer, it’s the people that help you, the people that are there every day. They’re the brave ones. You can get used to anything, I’ve gotten so used to being in an MRI machine that I can go straight to sleep, but the people that have to watch you deal with being sick, they are the ones that have to take on the really scary stuff.”
Jessie’s family is no stranger to cancer, having multiple family members who have battled cancer before her. “My great-grandma died of cancer, my mamaw has had stage 4 breast cancer three times, and my mom had thyroid cancer.” “We’re a cancer family, it’s something we’d had to get used to sadly. So, that’s when it comes into play that my mamaw is great with this, because she’s been through it so many times, my mom is great at this because she took care of my mamaw whenever she was sick, they know what they’re doing.”
“It helps with the fact that you can still remain positive, but everyone’s experience is different. No matter what stories you hear, nothing can really prepare you to go through it yourself.”
For Jessie, something that helps her get through this tough time is a motto she adopted from her mamaw.
“Cancer doesn’t have you, you have cancer,” said Myers. “Just try and live by that.”
Although Jessie is preparing to begin radiation treatment and continues to put on a brave face, the life she was forced to leave behind weighs a heavy toll, and her days of living life as a free spirited 22 year old have been put on hold.
Reach: Ivy Potter (740) 353-3101 Extension 1932