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A Cancer Diagnosis at 17: Is This a Bad Dream?

March 7th, 2015 |

by bryonimillar123 | Survivor: Chondrosarcoma    Connect


Bryoni had just celebrated her 17th birthday before receiving a diagnosis of Chondrosarcoma. The months following were a whirlwind.

I was 17 years old when I woke up in a hospital, no clue of where I was, what was going on, or what was wrong with me. I was attached to machines with bandages all around my head. No one would explain to me why. I was so scared. Was I going to die? When my mum arrived, I remember not believing it was her. I still had no clue what was happening to me. I wasn't allowed to eat or drink. I knew it was definitely more than a drunken night out. Finally, my gran explained to me what was going on: I had bone cancer and a brain tumor.

Cancer? Seriously? I was 17 years old. The first thing I thought was "is my life over?" "what is going to happen?". I remember asking my mum if I was going to die. She couldn't say. My gran kept telling me that everything was going to be alright, but I found it hard to believe her.

I remember my first MRI. I was so scared. What's this big scary thing? It's so loud. I couldn't stop crying. It was going on for so long. But when I got out, gran was there. I still couldn't get over it all. I remember the night I was transferred to a different hospital, I kept trying to escape from my bed. I honestly thought it was all a bad dream. Wake up, Bryoni. I just want to pretend it isn't reality. No. I don't have cancer. I'll wake up soon.

Then the doctors told me I had to have another operation on October 1st – more than a month away. Let me go home, I thought. I still wasn't allowed to eat or drink because I had a paralyzed larynx. But it didn't get easier. For the next month, the doctors kept poking and prodding. Words can't explain how scared I was before my operation. Would I wake up? Am I going to die? What if something goes wrong? What if... My mum told me she'd see me afterwards. My mum is my life. I didn't want to lose her.

When I got into the operation room, they gave me an anesthetic. Darkness.

When I woke up again, I was connected to loads of machines and had a tracheotomy in my neck, which made me freak out. What the hell is in my neck? Just let me go home. I couldn't talk. What was going on? Why can’t I speak? The nurses came to do their rounds and dish out meds but no one told me what was going on. When my mum came to see me, I tried speaking but nothing was coming out. I couldn't help but cry. I couldn't talk for about three weeks – the hardest weeks of my life, as I usually can't keep my mouth shut. When I finally could talk, I remember scaring my littlest sister.

When I was finally dismissed from the hospital, I had a PEG tube so that I could get daily nutrients. Soon, I was allowed to eat. I was even able to have Christmas dinner.We didn't hear anything for a while. A scan here and there, but nothing much. But then I heard from the doctor in April. He told us there was a bit of the tumor wrapped around the top of my spinal cord. They couldn't operate on it, because it would paralyze or kill me. Really? I thought this was over. He said he'd probably leave it or find another way.

A week before my 18th birthday, a call from the hospital informed us that they had found a treatment, but it had to be done in the United States. My gran came with me. It was called Proton Beam Radiation Therapy. For 3 months, I had one hour sessions, 5 days a week. These were the scariest 3 months of my life. I was in a different country, I knew no one.

Today, it's been months and I am still waiting on my results. I can't believe how quickly it all happened. I'm just hoping and praying that it's all over...or that I wake up from this nightmare soon.


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Bryoni Millar is 18 years old, and currently lives with her Grandmother. She was diagnosed with Chondrosarcoma in 2013. You can find Bryoni on IHC under the username bryonimillar123.

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