Meet Meg and her dog Wheaton. To get to know this Celebrate Life recipient a bit more, here’s Meg’s story in her own words.
" I sat down to write my story yesterday and after about an hour, realized it wasn’t the story I actually wanted to tell. As any person or family learning of a cancer diagnosis knows, it’s terrifying and life-altering in ways no one should ever have to experience...
My diagnosis story is neither unique nor remarkable. It started with a weakness in my left ankle, that led to some neurological testing, which revealed a spinal growth that ended up being two separate growths, totally unrelated to one another. The smaller T8 tumor was thankfully benign and removed completely during resection, but the one at my T11 was too embedded for more than a small biopsy. It was discovered to be a fairly rare diffuse midline glioma, a type of pediatric cancer found in the brains and brain stems of children. Although I’ve undergone surgery, oral chemo, and proton radiation therapy, my diagnosis is confirmed terminal. Even if I were to opt for additional chemotherapies or radiation treatments, the nature of this kind of tumor is not forgiving.
But like I said, this is not the story I wanted to share. My actual story is of the love, the compassion, and the unyielding care I’ve received from family, friends, and healthcare workers from day one. 2020 is a year for the books for every human on the planet and I won’t begin to pretend to only be seeking out the ‘positives’ of an utterly awful 365 days, but I can’t help but reflect on the hope and humanity I’ve encountered during such a trying time and I feel that my thank yous and appreciation is what is more important to share.
To every single member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center staff that I’ve crossed paths with, from my oncology team to my wonderful neurosurgeon and the Nap King as I so delightfully called my anesthesiologist... To the countless admins and RNs I’ve talked with on the phone, the nurses who took my vitals, and the navigational transportation gurus who pushed me from point A to point B – thank you.
To the New York Proton Center, a true medical blessing for those fighting any kind of cancer regardless of age or illness stage – thank you. Although I really didn’t want to show up five days a week for six weeks straight, your playlists never failed to insight my urge to bust a move when I walked in the door and the smiles of all staff members couldn’t help but be returned even on my worst days.
To the Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford and to the team who might save my life and give me decades instead of just years to live thanks to a clinical trial you’ve pioneered as an option for those like myself – thank you. This trial, although a journey into the unknown fills me with hope for the future I might have and the adventures I’ll live to see.
To my friends... I don’t have the words to express how full of love you leave me feeling nor the appropriate ‘thank you’ vocabulary to tell you just how grateful I am. Whether you shared a card or a text, a bowl of commiserating ice cream, or a silly joke to help brighten my day, thank you. Although I’m physically far away from most of you due to geographic locations and pandemic life, I somehow feel closer to each of you than I ever have before. They say friends are the family you pick for yourself, but I think the universe conspired and selected only the best for me.
To my family. We’ve endured more than I think fair nor necessary in order to appreciate life on a different level, but somehow we’ve grown and adapted and even come out better than before. I know it’s not always easy to have the words or to share optimism when things feel so bleak, but know that your presence in my life is simply enough and that we can get through absolutely anything together.
And to my little Frenchie bundle of joy, Wheaton, for whom my Celebrate Life nomination came to be in honor of. You don’t speak English nor do you understand many basic commands just yet, but the love you funnel through your puppy eyes is enough to melt my heart each and every day. I am so excited to share my adventures with you and have you as my companion through what will be equally trying and beautifully radiant days. I’ve never had a dog, but in a short month you’ve brought so much magic into my life and I can only hope to be the best fur-mom humanly possible.
It is with all my love, my gratitude and my respect that I share these thank yous to the people and organizations that are advocating for me to celebrate my life each day, now joyously with the addition of my co-pilot and comrad Wheatie."
Meet Matthew, one of our first Celebrate Life recipients!
Matthew has experienced more than most at age 15, as he is fighting a strong battle against a brain tumor. Outside of that 2 inch scar on Matthew's head, which he is able to cover by his hair, Matthew is seen by his friends and family as any other boy his age. We think Matthew is incredibly brave and strong...
His parents told us he loves exotic cars and wants to ride in one. We think that’s a great way to celebrate life, so we sent money to Matthew to help make that exotic car ride possible!
He’s promised to send us pictures and videos after his ride in July, so stay tuned for the footage!
Matthew had always been a loving child but at age 10, his demeanor changed over the course of months. As his jovial self turned to unsettling actions, he underwent hospital and doctor visits only to be classified as having behavioral problems.
After multiple visits to the ER, his parents could not accept the fact that this was behavioral related and demanded further tests and scans. It was that persistence that led to a CT scan that forever changed Matthew and his family's lives. A mass in his brain was identified - his actions were a result of obstructive hydrocephalus and a brain tumor.
Hydrocephalus is the build up of fluid in his head that was crushing his brain. Emergency surgery was immediately scheduled, as the pediatric Neurosurgeon told his family he had only days to weeks to live.
Matthew's surgery was a success, and he spent over a month rebuilding his motor skills and working to be able to walk again. But the battle wasn’t over. MRIs every 3 to 6 months was prescribed and it was a waiting game to see if the remaining inoperable brain tumor grew.
In October 2020, a scan showed that his brain tumor had doubled in size and required open brain surgery, which Matthew had in January 2021. His battle is not over and continued treatment includes chemotherapy once a week for the next year. Through all of this, Matthew stays excited for his exotic car ride in July and the chance to celebrate life!