Everything Happens for a Reason

October 20, 2009

At the tender age of eleven, my life as I had known it was forever changed. At the precipice moving into a new home in a new city and starting at a new school I started having throbbing headaches almost everyday; each day getting worse and worse. Acknowledging this as an increasingly serious problem, my mother scheduled a doctor’s appointment. Once there, the doctors scheduled me for an MRI, where they discovered my brain tumor. The tumor was located on my brain stem and was blocking the cerebral fluid from draining down my spine which ultimately caused those pressure headaches and forced my eyes to shake.
The very next day we were up at the Children’s Hospital in Seattle at an appointment with the neural surgeons. They determined that I would have to undergo immediate surgery. A week later they brought me back to the Children’s Hospital where I would be staying for the next eight days and undergoing three different brain surgeries. One surgery was to relieve the pressure; which unfortunately they could not. The second surgery was to insert a shunt (a tube implanted in my brain) that would relieve the blocked fluid so it could drain correctly down my spine. The last and final surgery of that week was a biopsy of the tumor where they would test it to indicate what it was exactly so that they could determine how to get rid of it.
As if hearing your child has a brain tumor is not bad enough, the situation worsened when we got the results from the biopsy. It was now official, I, Kevin Lindahl, at the innocent age of eleven years old, had cancer. Luckily, the type of cancer I had, Germinoma was very rare yet very treatable; and thankfully we caught the signs early enough that the tumor was still fairly small. This greatly increased my odds of beating the disease. With the help of the Children’s Hospital neural surgeons and my oncologist, Dr. Halahan, they came up with a plan to shrink and eventually attempt to eliminate my cancer completely.
On July 1st of 2002, I started the first of my three chemotherapy treatments planned by Dr. Halahan. About a week prior to this first treatment I had another surgery to put in my port (catheter) which they used to inject the chemotherapy directly into my heart. This was also used to give me blood transfusions when my counts were low, such as platelets or white blood cells. The months that I underwent chemotherapy were incredibly traumatic, due to all of the countless blood draws, transfusions, treatments, and numerous other needle pokes I was forced to endure. In the beginning, I still had a slight fear of needles, but with this experience and all of the exposure to the “pointy demons” this slight fear developed into a true phobia of needles, that continues to this day.
After months of painful and relentless treatment, it was almost complete. Now that the chemotherapy had shrunk the size of the tumor the only thing left to do was remove the remaining cancer cells that were lingering in my brain. It was at that time when we moved my treatment to the University of Washington Hospital, where I would finish up my cancer treatments with radiation. The physical impact of radiation was mediocre compared to the trauma
of chemotherapy. All I had to do was lay still on a table with my face restrained under a mask as they beamed radiation to precise points in my brain to destroy the remaining cancer cells. Radiation treatment only took three weeks, but was a daily occurrence.
Five years after the last day of my treatment on October 29, 2007, I could finally be considered a survivor. However, the trauma and uncertainty that resulted from those few months of treatment will be with me always. I never would have been able to get through this without the loving support of a great family and the trust in a highly skilled team of experts. I am proud to say that on November 19, 2008 I had another MRI, over six years after the end of my treatments, I am cancer-free! And to make this day even better my doctor informed us that I don’t even need to come back for another routine MRI, I am completely done with cancer! The chance of it returning is so slim that they don’t even worry about it anymore.
Now that the horror of cancer and it’s treatments are done with and I have time to look back on the past seven years, I realize that it wasn’t all as bad as it may sound. I developed a new outlook on life and in a way, grew up faster by learning to take on responsibilities. Having a tragedy like this happening actually brought my family closer, which helped me overcome. There were even a few times during my treatment where I was able to take a break from the bad sides and have a little fun; like when I got to throw out a first pitch at a Mariners game after a rough day in the hospital, because the nurses knew the Mariners were my favorite team and felt bad seeing me in so much pain. Or my Make-A-Wish, which was a Disney Cruise in Florida for a week!
Another part of this story that I am thankful for is the incredible staff and doctors at Children’s and everywhere else cancer or sick kids are involved. I grew so close to my doctors and nurses that they felt like a second family.
Some of the doctors and nurses even participated at Camp Goodtimes (a camp put on by the American Cancer Society for cancer patients and survivors) where I was a Leader In Training for two years and hope to come back as staff. While there I found that I loved helping younger children that are going through the same things I went through. With this experience, I am now looking at going into child psychology when I get into college.
I believe that most things in life happen for a reason. I’m not saying that every time you stub your toe is for a reason, but major things that go on during one’s life, such as having cancer or going through another life changing experience. I strongly believe that I was diagnosed with cancer and was able to overcome this deadly disease for a reason, maybe to help others who might go through the same challenge, whatever the reason is, I know that after everything I’ve been through that I am completely ready to move on with my life and face what’s ahead.
Kevin Lindahl