“My Voice” by Danielle Krapinski

Danielle Krapinski - 'Survivor'

In March of 2006, I began experiencing more health problems the most 20 years old have to deal with.  It began with backaches, numbness to my right side and headaches that would make me vomit and last for up to three days.  Doctors really were just treating the symptoms.  The first MRI I had done was of my back, and the doctors found out I had a bulging disk. They prescribed therapy and while this took some pain away, I was still having problems walking, killer headaches and no control over my right side. Clearly there was still something wrong with me but the doctors couldn’t pinpoint what.  One afternoon, after throwing up all morning, my mom asked if I was pregnant, I responded with “I shouldn’t be”. And we never spoke of that again.

A few weeks later, still having tons of health problems, I went and saw X-men: Last Stand with my parents. When the movie ended I stood up to leave, sank back down into my seat and had what we later discovered was a grand mal seizure. Always determined not to jump to any conclusions, my parents thought it might be because I was at work all day with nothing to eat, went straight to the movie and only ate popcorn that day. But with all the problems I had been having they called the doctor, even though it was Memorial Day, and had him schedule a MRI of the head the next day. Sure enough, when the doctor viewed the films it showed a two and a half inch tumor sitting on top of my brain.

June 1st, 2006 I was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme.  Like most cancer patients, I under went surgery, radiation, chemotherapy. So no use on going into details on something that the majority of people who visit this site are experts on, right?  Most of my summer was spent doing treatments. Not exactly what I had planned to do on my summer vacation! I had just finished my freshmen year of college and had bigger plans. But I had to make do with what life had handed to me.

I am an artist and the strain of chemo really took so much of my inspiration and drive from me. I never stopped my classes and while I was at school this lack of inspiration was hard for me. Taking art classes became more of a chore for me instead of teaching me strategies to becoming more creative. Even after I went off of chemo and started to gain back health and return to “normal life” I still was having trouble with my art, it just was not where I wanted it to be.

In the summer of 2008 I was fortunate enough to find a camp geared towards survivors in my age category.  I was able to attend “First Descents”, a kayaking camp for young adults with cancer. The week I spent at this camp did so much for me, my outlook towards my diagnosis and my survivorship. I cannot even begin to explain or put into words how much attending First Descents meant to me. After returning, I felt the best I had since I was diagnosed. I returned to school again in the fall and my inspiration for my art had finally returned. For the longest time I had been so busy blocking my feelings, trying hard not to think about the cancer, when I should have been using my experience in expressing it through my art. So much of my art has come to revolve around cancer and I want to use my art to help other people who have cancer relate and feel better about their situation.

This December (2009) I will be graduating college only a semester late. Not too bad for having lived through cancer! I already plan to have my senior show be portraits of survivors.  We need to put as many faces to this disease as possible in whatever form we can.