Jenguin’s Journey – Facing a Different Front: Winning the First Battle & Defeating the Enemy

It had been two months since I started a new course of chemotherapy, and I tried to imagine the damage it dealt to the tumor in my head.

Written by Jenny Williams (aka ‘Jenguin’) – Head for the Cure Ambassador

2020 has quickly become a year we will never forget. Months of quarantine have left us eager to get outside, and we fondly remember large gatherings from previous years. In the brain tumor community, it’s been a little disappointing that our usual events and 5Ks have turned virtual this year. I’ve been involved with the Head for the Cure Chicago 5K since 2015, which has directly benefitted my medical center and doctor every year since.

And in June of last year, I decided to travel over five hours to meet up with my siblings in St. Louis. We walked the 5K there to honor our dad who passed away from the same type of tumor that I’m currently fighting. It was a spectacular day despite the rain, and I have a feeling it will continue to be a tradition for me and my sisters.

It seemed only fitting that on the one-year mark of that day, I would have a follow-up MRI. Wearing the gray survivor shirt from that race and a cheery penguin mask, I bravely headed into the hospital, forced to leave my boyfriend behind at the entrance. It had been two months since I started a new course of chemotherapy, and I tried to imagine the damage it dealt to the tumor in my head as I navigated my way downstairs to the highly magnetic area marked with warning signs and into the noisy MRI machine.

Afterwards, we headed home to prepare for a video visit with my doctor to find out the results. Although she was starting to see patients in person again, I was not one of them. I was considered high risk, with depleted blood counts from the previous week to prove it. We kept our fingers crossed until the doctor appeared on my computer screen with the news we were waiting for. Comparing before and after pictures of my brain over video, we saw that the tumor was clearly wounded from this first battle. This meant the only thing standing in between me and another round of chemo was a low neutrophil (white blood cell) count, which I was having re-checked in my weekly counts the following day.

A couple vials of blood and a phone call revealed that my neutrophils were better than ever—doubling in a matter of seven days. I knew this was excellent news, but it also meant it was time for another round of cancer-killing toxins. I can’t say I’m looking forward to receiving this ammunition in the mail (and in my body), but I am looking forward to delivering another fatal eight-week blow to the unwelcome enemy in my head.

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