By Constance Blanchard
"Unfortunately, it appears the tumor has returned."
Those were the first words the emergency room doctor said after seeing my CT scans. My husband's face dropped.
"How can that be? I must be dreaming. It's only been nine months since my craniotomy." Those are the words I wanted to say, but struggled to get out.
I was having seizure after seizure with barely a five-minute break in between.
The emergency room nurses were giving me anticonvulsants intravenously, trying to get my seizures to stop. Eventually, my seizing stopped. I was so exhausted, I fell right asleep.
I was still not ready to digest the news. My brain tumor, a glioblastoma multiforme, had returned less than five months since my radiation therapy ended and within the first year of my chemotherapy treatment.
By the next morning, my local oncologist, a very caring and sincere doctor, had already started writing his referral to MD Anderson. All he needed was my consent.
My husband and I said yes at the exact same time. There was no time for hesitation, not this time around. My daughter was only two, and I was just getting started with life.
I needed the best in the business, and everyone knows that is MD Anderson.
MD Anderson is a home away from home
Within a few days, I received a phone call to schedule an appointment for scans and an initial consultation.
MD Anderson was already exceeding my expectations by taking care of me so quickly. It still felt like a dream, though, and I was waiting for someone to wake me up.
The reality was that I was heading to Houston. Luckily, I have family just northwest of the city, who welcomed me into their home. In fact, they were prepared to have me stay with them as long as I needed -- months on end, no questions asked.
When I walked through the doors off Holcombe Boulevard, I was amazed. It felt nothing like the hospitals I had visited before. In fact, it felt nothing like a hospital at all.
The entire atmosphere was calming - beautiful aquariums, fountains two stories high, lush gardens both inside and out. Now, I really thought I was dreaming. Everywhere I turned there was a kind, smiling face. The whole place felt like a warm blanket, and I felt at home.
A confident neurosurgeon and care team
On February 8, 2010, I met with neurosurgeon Sujit Prabhu, M.D. There are many wonderful things I could say about Dr. Prabhu, but his most important characteristic is confidence. During our visit there was an overwhelming amount of assuredness in his voice about his skills as a doctor.
Dr. Prabhu gave me a couple of options for when he could perform my surgery, one of which was the very next day.
Like I said before, I had no time for hesitation. Waiting only gave me more time to worry. So, I scheduled my craniotomy for the next morning. Believe it or not, I actually felt enthusiastic about my brain surgery.
My surgery was performed in MD Anderson's state-of-the-art Brainsuite. Just before my surgery, I was given a glimpse into the operating room. The outer room was brimming with so much positivity that I couldn't stop smiling and laughing. Was I actually having fun before brain surgery? This had to be some kind of dream.
The nurses' and anesthesiologist's confident attitudes were infectious. Everyone around me felt like cheerleaders at the big game. They were rooting for their star quarterback, Dr. Prabhu, to make the game winning play, my craniotomy.
A dream comes true
That was over three years ago, but it feels like yesterday. I'm happy, healthy and enjoying my life as a mother, wife, sister, daughter and friend. I'm proud to say that I'm cancer-free.
I still get regular MRIs, but I enjoy making the trip to Houston to visit family - not only my aunts and uncles, but my
MD Anderson family as well.
Those of you who have experienced cancer can understand how it all feels very surreal. Every time I walk into
MD Anderson, I'm bursting again with the positive energy I felt from the moment I first stepped foot into the lobby. To sum up my entire experience at MD Anderson, it's a dream come true.