“It’s not about how hard you can hit but how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward”
At seventeen years old, as I was beginning to evolve into a young woman, my life changed, and it changed forever. In November of 2002, I was diagnosed with Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma, a brain tumor located in the brain stem. When I was informed by the doctors of my new health condition I was sure I would die. While my mother was extremely nervous, I felt at peace; I felt serenity unlike any other. I felt I would die and be remembered for being that adventurous and outgoing young girl whose life was cut too short by a brain tumor. As I lay in bed at night I would picture my funeral and would hope that many people would attend; a sign of how many lives I had touched in my short life. I kept these thoughts to myself though wary of ever mentioning it to anyone.
So I went in for my surgery sure of what the results would bring. After undergoing the eight hour surgery to remove a majority of this benign brain tumor, my neurosurgeons and neurologist deemed it a huge success. I was still alive though, this was a huge surprise to me. However, I was left in a new physical condition that made everything a huge challenge.. I found what the doctors had stated difficult to believe as I was no longer able to walk, sit, speak intelligibly, or even raise my arms or legs.
I would lay in my hospital bed unable to comprehend what had happened of my life. A nurse would check my vitals day in and day out and converse with my mother, my devoted mother who did not leave my side at even one instance during this ordeal. The nurse smiled and said to my mother, “You’re daughter will get better, slowly but surely.” I didn’t see or believe how this could ever be possible. My entire world seemed to be shattering apart, and I was left to pick up the pieces that didn’t seem to fit together any longer.
Rigorous amounts of therapy soon became a daily ritual for me in my new life. Radiation was also administered to me for six weeks in order to zap the remaining portion of the tumor. Physical, speech, occupational and recreational therapies were the therapies administered to me each and every day. I was depressed to be in this new physical condition, depressed to witness what had become of me. Despite of how I felt at the time, I would work harder and harder with each coming day hopeful to someday walk again. From the physical condition I was in at that time, I did not think it was possible to recuperate to the extreme that I have and continue to do so. But that didn’t stop me from giving it a shot at that time. Throughout the seven year process, I went from a wheelchair to a walker to two crutches to now a single crutch. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication; but I am and will continue to get better.
Three years ago my tumor appeared to have grown slightly and my neurologist thought it’d be best to treat me with chemotherapy. This chemotherapy was inserted intravenously once a week for a year and a half. I felt that I needed to keep myself busy during this time as well; so I also went to college during the week to attain my bachelor’s degree. My stubbornness, dedication, and motivation became the prime forces that had me finish college. I would take two buses to and from college Monday through Thursday for classes with the exception of Fridays, which were set aside for chemotherapy. Not only was I not absent for a single class but I also was on the dean’s list from when I started college until I graduated from it.
The journeys that I have embarked on have taught me vital lessons about who I am as a person. I refuse to take no for an answer and will do everything in my power to reach the finish line. The determination, persistence, commitment and drive that I possess will allow me to attain any goal set before me. I may fall many times in my quest to reach all the goals I set before myself but I will rise yet again. Not only am I a fighter but I am a survivor. Mark my words, one day, I, Arlene Milagros Quezada, will walk independently. I am always and will always be reminded of what the nurse said regarding my recuperation process, “Slowly but surely,” for I am a cancer survivor who does not shy away from any challenge.