“My Voice” by Julie Cignarella

Julie Cignarella - 'Survivor'

I woke up on the morning of Tuesday, October 14, 2003 like any normal day.  I was out the night before at a local bar watching the Red Sox play the Yankees at Fenway.  I had fallen asleep on the couch, but awoke in the morning for work and didn’t feel right AT ALL.  I had previously gone to the hospital and had been diagnosed with migraine headaches.  I just knew something was wrong though.  I frantically called anyone and everyone.  My father was driving my two younger brothers to school, so I called my mom at work.  I told her that I would drive myself to the hospital.  I got halfway there, and turned around.  I got back to my house to find the local police and an ambulance waiting for me.

I hesitated to climb into the ambulance, but knew that something was terribly wrong.  I arrived at the hospital, went through numerous tests and heard the the most terrifying words you could ever hear “you have cancer”.  I was in a total state of disbelief, not having anyone there, family or friends. I wept uncontrollably and didn’t know what to say or do.  They immediately rushed me down to the OR for an urgent surgery to relieve the CF (cerebral spinal fluid) off of my brain.  It was then, after my initial surgery, that I knew I was in for a long road ahead of me.

I had a Pilocytic Astrocytoma (brain tumor) of the 3rd ventricle.  It’s normally found in pediatrics (children), but in my case it was brushed off as just a headache!!!

I kept thinking to myself “I was supposed to go to work this morning”; that was all I was terrified of.  Having cancer has opened my eyes wide to the saying that “things could be worse”  I now truly understand that saying.  Not only has cancer made me personally stronger for myself, but hopefully, in my trials, I can help others.

A survivor in my eyes is ANYONE that takes a problem, such as cancer, looks it square in the face, and tells it where to go, and how to get there.  I was frightened in a sense, but things could be worse.  I went through dozens of surgeries and proton radiation,  (they couldn’t remove all of the tumor). I am now going into Massachusetts General Hospital and have the most INCREDIBLE group of doctors.  I see myself being diagnosed as a blessing of sorts, because I can show others they can be strong too.

A survivor is someone who has been through hell and back, and has lots of intuitive information to help others.  I was diagnosed in October of 2003, and it is now August of 2009.  I have to go into the hospital for an MRI and check-up once a year now, a lot better than being in there every day.

My vision and speech were affected, and in turn my walking was also messed up, since the tumor was pressed against my equilibrium. If I could give anyone advice, and I mean ANYONE: if you have a headache, or anything for that matter, have testing done.  Find out what’s wrong, and have it taken care of in the early stages.

My name is Julie Cignarella, I’m 26, and I’m a survivor…….