Such a Big Miracle for Such a Little Girl: Morgan’s Story
I am not afraid of needles, I can swallow a pill without thinking about it, and I can lay in the narrow tube of an MRI for over an hour without moving an inch. I have been doing all of these things since I was two years old. Why? Because I am a brain cancer survivor.
When I was two I was diagnosed with a malignant Medulloblastoma and the doctors only gave me a 10% chance of long term survival. The tumor was located in the back of my brain, in the cerebellum. When the doctors found it, it was about the size of a baseball or a grapefruit. Because I was so young the only chance doctor’s saw that they had to save my life was to surgically remove the tumor and then put me on a protocol of high dose chemotherapy followed by a stem cell rescue. The stem cell rescue is like a bone marrow transplant, but the doctor’s used my own bone marrow. They harvested and stored my own bone marrow before the last round of chemo that I got. That last round was so toxic it destroyed everything in my body: my eyebrows and eyelashes fell out, my skin got red and peeled off, my nose would bleed all the time, and blisters in my mouth and throat made it impossible for me to eat or drink.
The cancer did go away for two years and then I relapsed. The tumor that returned was in the same area and this time the doctors caught it when it was a small mass. The doctors told my parents that I did not have much of a chance to live, and if I did I would not live past kindergarten. But my parents did not take that for an answer.
From that day on we played the game like we were always winning and never took no for an answer. That is why at the age of four I was one of the first children to have Proton beam radiation to kill the tumor in my head. I was the third child in the United States to use this treatment for the type of tumor I had; it was my only chance of survival. In order to get this treatment my family and I moved up to Boston for eight weeks where I went to Mass General Hospital every day for the radiation treatment that would cure me.
The childhood years are the most powerful, precious and memorable ones of a person’s life. Some say when you are little you can’t remember anything and nothing matters until you are older. Maybe for some that is true, but I remember many of my experiences from when I was very young and, like everyone’s life, some of my memories are amazing and wonderful and some are simply painful.
I remember escaping the needles and all medical procedures in the sanctuary of the hospital playroom where I played house, and made masterpiece arts and crafts. I remember watching my favorite show “Little Bear” with my mom and dad while I would lie in my hospital bed, one hand in theirs and the other wrapped in tape that held the tubes carrying chemo to my body. I remember flying down the hospital hallways in a toy jeep with nurses running behind me carrying medicine for me to take for pain and nausea. And I remember asking my dad every night to hold my hand as I fell asleep. Of course being in a hospital is never fun, I also remember the needles that plunged into my skin every day, the stitches that had to be plucked out of me, the multiple, yucky medicines, having to re-learn how to walk, and having the horrible experience of watching my hair fall out–twice.
Throughout my battle I had many people who helped me push through these hard times. My family who loved and supported me, the doctors who treated me and my best friend Nicole who was always there for me and never left my side.
I believe everything happens for a reason and fate plays a part in everyone’s life. Today, 14 years later, I know that my illness has shaped me but it hasn’t defined me. Sure I am a cancer survivor but that is not all I am. I am also a Junior in high school who has plans to go to college and have a career; I am a member of the high school cross country team; I am a good friend ; I am a part of a loving family; and I am a miracle that believes you should never give up hope.
By: Morgan Coutts
This is who we are fighting for!!