Editor's Note: Teenworthy is a column written by teens for parents and teens. Today's guest writer is an 8th grader fighting cancer and raising money to help other people with the same illness, Ewing sarcoma. Read her story here and then use the column to start conversations with your own friends or kids. If you have a burning question for a teen or know of any teens who want to write for Teenworthy, let us know.
My name is Kat. Up until March of this year, I was your typical 8th grader. I love horseback riding (eventing), skiing, and spending time with friends and family. Recently, I had just got back from a ski trip to Whistler/Blackcomb and was sitting in my class when a guest, an American who provided aid in Rwanda during the genocide, came to speak to us. When the fighting started he was told by the U.S. to leave, but the man told us he said no. He stayed in Rwanda for the whole duration of the genocide helping orphan kids while gunshots rang out. I remember sitting in the audience and saying to myself, I want to make a difference like this someday.
Little did I know how soon that day would come.
On March 5, 2013 I went from skiing down the peaks of Whistler and jumping over three-foot jumps on my horse Scooter to being a teenage girl who might have a rare and serious form of cancer. I went to the doctor to have a large bump on my thigh checked out. I was told what I thought might be a bad bruise had a 95 percent chance of being cancer.
In those first weeks I had to do things I never thought I’d even be able to do. I stayed perfectly still for half an hour while I went through a tube barely bigger then my body with a camera that sounded like gunshots. I got my first IV, and I had pictures taken of my body while a panel rested three inches away from my nose. I had two surgeries (leg and lung) to perform biopsies. And at the time these didn't seem like big deals, but looking back I don't know where I found the strength to do those things.
I've realized through the small part I've gone through so far that you find strength in so many things: friends, family, and of course my horse, Scooter.
After all of the tests and a very stressful couple of weeks, I was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer — Ewing sarcoma — which has about 250 diagnosed childhood cases a year in the U.S.
In the beginning I had no trouble telling people that I had cancer. Actually, I'm pretty sure when I told most people I had a smile on my face. But with every doctor visit, phone call and day that went on, it became harder because more and more information sank in. I began to realize how hard it was going to be and how much my life was going to change.
As the weeks went on I began to experience just how hard this journey was going to be. After the biopsies it was hard just getting up to go to the bathroom because I was on crutches (and you can ask both my parents — I am not too coordinated). I could sense how worried they were, but I'd like to point out I never fell, and I got quite good at the crutches.
My treatment includes 30 weeks of chemo and a surgery to remove/replace 5 inches of my femur. Chemotherapy is both difficult and hard for everyone, but takes a specific toll on teens because of how drastically it changes your life.
During chemo eating is so hard. No one really tells you that your taste buds are going to be screwed up so things you liked before now make you feel like you’re going to throw up. No one can really describe how wasted and icky your body feels during chemo. I found strength in so many different things to get me through that first round, but there were still times when I just couldn't find that strength that day.
It was probably during my first chemo that I thought back to our speaker we had that one day in my class, and I realized maybe this is how I'm going to make my difference. What if I could help future kids with sarcoma cancers not have to go through the pains of chemo? That would make a huge difference.
I realized this is why this had to happen to me — so I can help kids never have to go through what I'm going through. I would like to raise money to fund research led by my doctor at Seattle Children's Hospital, Dr. Douglas S. Hawkins, to help improve cure rates, treatments, and help reduce the risks of long-term effects from this disease and the associated treatment, so some day some kid's journey can be that much easier.
I have a long road ahead of me. One that will have ups and downs and challenges of the magnitude I’ve never experienced before. Knowing that I have support from friends, family, and even people I don’t know makes a huge difference. Raising money to research treatments and cures for sarcomas helps me to know that my struggle is worthwhile and that I can and will make a difference in the world.
Go to my fundraiser page if you’d like to make a donation; 100 percent of every dollar we raise will go straight to research. Thanks for helping me make a difference!
And if you’d like to follow my experience, you can find my blog on Tumblr.
Kat Tiscornia is a Seattle 8th grader who loves horseback riding (eventing), skiing, and spending time with friends and family. She is fighting a rare form of cancer and raising money for research and treatment. Follow her story on Tumblr.