Christianne's Story: Live life to the fullest

Christianne's Story: Live life to the fullest

When I was diagnosed with a Pilocytic Astrocytoma, I was 10 years old. I knew I had neurofibromatosis but I never thought this would happen to me. 

All I cared about at that age was who my next soccer game was against, and swimming in my babysitter's pool. My parents took me to the doctor all the time because they knew something was wrong. I was 49 pounds, 49 inches tall, and I wasn't growing or gaining weight. The doctor told me I was anorexic, even though I had absolutely no idea what that meant. 
 
My symptoms began with extreme fatigue, I never wanted to do anything, I would be running down the field during a soccer game and my legs would completely give out and I had no idea why. Then came the headaches, morning vomiting, slurring my words, and severe blurred vision. These were no signs of anorexia.
 
On August 16, 2001 I was visiting friends when I went to throw up in their bathroom and passed out. I woke up sitting on my friend's mother's lap with 2 paramedics facing me. I had no clue what had just happened. I was rushed to the hospital where the doctors thought it was heat stroke. That night my godmother, who thankfully worked at the hospital, got angry and ordered them to hand me to a pediatrician. The next day (August 17, 2001) he looked into my eyes and saw something, some sort of shadow. He then sent me to the eye doctor who then saw the same "shadow". An emergency CT scan was ordered, and I will never forget when the doctor came in. 
 
"The results of your CT scan came in, and you have a brain tumour. The IWK Health Centre in Halifax is waiting for you. Go home, pack your things, and leave TONIGHT."
 
Once we got to Halifax, we went to my Uncle and Aunt's house, and he drove us to the hospital. I will never forget the ride there, ever. The ride was quiet, uncomfortable, and I was scared to death. I held on to my dad's hand not knowing if I would ever hold it again.
 
I was admitted to the hospital that evening and at 10am the next morning, August 18, 2001, I was having my first MRI, with my mom holding my foot the entire way. That afternoon, at 2pm I was in the OR. Before going in, I looked at my dad and asked him "Dad, am I going to live....?" and for one of the first times in my life, I saw my father cry. 
 
The doctors told my parents; she may never walk again, she may never talk again, she might be brain dead, and the list went on, and on, and on...and on. When I first woke up, my mom and the doctors said: "Can you move your toes?" ...and I did, and then I moved my legs, my fingers, my arms, and everything else. The only thing I lost was the strength in my right arm which is back 99% with the help of lots of physiotherapy. But during that therapy I had to learn to do everything left-handed in case it would never come back. Simple things like holding a fork to eat, or a glass of water... and harder things like learning to write left-handed. 
 
I was in the hospital for 3 weeks, had an amazing team of neurologists, surgeons, and nurses who made the experience a bit more comfortable. But I have Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada to thank for what they did for my parents. They provided them with so many information booklets, support systems, and my Mom even went on to start a Brain Tumour Support Group. Although her support group was short-lived, I got to share my story with other survivors.
 
The summer after my surgery, I was back on the soccer field, running up and down the field without falling all over the place. I was bullied before my tumour, and even more after because I was bald from the surgery, and had to learn to do things in different ways but, the experience has made me a stronger person in the long run. Some of the comments I heard still bother me sometimes but the experience has made me a stronger person in the long run.
 
Jumping forward to 15 years later and I look back on my life. That life-saving surgery has allowed me to go to my high school prom and graduation. I went on to study Business Administration with a focus on Marketing, and graduated from post secondary. 
 
Christianne running Blue Nose Marathon 5kI was told that I would never walk again and yet I ran in the Blue Nose Marathon events in Halifax on May 21, 2016 with three incredible friends.  Our team and I have raised just over $2000. May 21, 2016 also happened to be the day that pilocytic astrocytoma are being featured as part of the Brain-Tumour-a-Day-in-May for Brain Tumour Awareness Month so it was a very fitting day.
 
Last but not least, I am also an avid gym goer, hiker and adventure loving Brain Tumour Survivor. I was not supposed to live, but I am here.

I chose to live my life to the fullest because any day above ground, with a second chance at life, is a good day!
 
Thank you Christianne for sharing your story and for joining the movement to end brain tumours.
The movement is stronger because of you!

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