Whether it's the loss of a loved one or an unwelcome diagnosis, obstacles such as these force us to appreciate all that we have, and gain a deeper understanding of our minds and bodies. For some people, the road to physical and mental recovery can be a winding and complicated path.
Fortunately, the transformative power of overcoming a difficult situation or life-threatening illness often yields a positive outcome. For these young women profiled, their diseases only empowered them to never give up. By tackling their illnesses head on and refusing to succumb to their pain, they learned to beat the odds and appreciated what they have, rather than focusing on what they don't, and most of all, they learned to trust in themselves. For Isabella, Catherine, Ashley, Virginia, and Jessie, relying on their gut instincts saved their lives, and by bravely sharing their personal stories, they hope to inspire others to do the same.
Hometown: West Bloomfield, Michigan
Profession: Student, Arizona State University
Twitter Handle: @CBlotner_
Disease: Astrocytoma (Brain Tumor)
Bio: Catherine is a patient advocate for the young adult cancer community. She underwent a craniotomy at the age of seventeen to remove a Grade II Astrocytoma. Since then, she has used her experience with a brain tumor to spread information about cancer, provide support, and make resources readily available for others who have also been affected by cancer.
According to Catherine, who has been battling her brain tumor and related seizures since 2007, "Instead of sitting in a classroom on the first day of my senior year of high school, I found myself on a table for my craniotomy, during which I remained conscious for nearly one out of the six hours of surgery. An extremely talented surgeon from the University of California San Francisco successfully removed all visible tumor, sparing me from chemotherapy and radiation. I now have MRI scans every four months to monitor my condition, and I continue to treat my seizures with medication."
How It Changed Her: "I am so much more grateful for basic functions, like control of my speech. My tumor was located in the area of my brain that controls speech and language function. It was incredibly likely that I would have trouble talking, if I talked at all, after my surgery. Somehow, I emerged from the operating room with the same speech capabilities that I entered with, aside from some vocabulary recall problems. I had to mentally prepare to lose the ability to speak as a major risk of having the surgery, and the surprise of waking up and still having the ability to speak is something I will never forget."
Why She Wanted to Tell Her Story to Marie Claire: "According to the National Brain Tumor Society, brain tumors are the second leading cause of cancer-related death for those under the age of eighteen. Very few people are aware of that statistic, nor do they recognize gray ribbons as the symbol of brain tumors and brain cancer. Pink ribbons and labeled products dominate the NFL and many grocery aisles in October, (national breast cancer awareness month), yet no sports program or company has stepped up to represent the brain tumor community."
Words to Live By: "Find a bit of beauty and joy in the world today. Share it. If you can't find it, create it."—Lisa Bonchek Adams, stage IV breast cancer patient and advocate
Her Advice for Someone Who's Going Through a Similar Situation: "You are your own best advocate—speak up and voice your concerns during each appointment! Bring someone else with you to absorb information and to act as an extra set of ears or to take notes. Make a list of the questions you have and bring them to appointments as well so that you won't forget to ask key questions." Catherine also recommends reaching out to other patients or survivors through organizations such as the National Brain Tumor Society or the Children's Brain Tumor Foundation, as well as Stupid Cancer, Imerman Angels, and the online Twitter forum she founded, the #btsm tweet chat, that runs every Sunday night on Twitter at 10 p.m. EST.