My name is Savana Bowers and this is my story. I used to be a normal junior in high school on the drill team, participating in all basketball and football games throughout the year. I attended most of the dances and was having a great high school experience. When I was younger, I went to dance classes and performed in front of a large crowd. I also helped out at the local animal shelter along with volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club with the drill team.
On Dec. 13, 2012, my life changed forever. It was late in the evening and I was at my high school drill practice when I was rushed by ambulance to the hospital after my drill coach saw me collapse and acting out of the ordinary. After several tests and days at the hospital, when I was totally out of it, my parents got the news from my doctor that I had a brain tumor.
My parents and I met with many doctors at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital, and we scheduled brain surgery for March 21. After a long, 8-hour surgery, I was sent to recovery and spent four days in the hospital. One week later, I found out that I was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma grade three brain cancer. We were, to say the least, devastated with this shocking news. Why me? I am only 17 and I am still in high school.
After recovering from surgery, I started a six week everyday treatment of radiation at UC Davis, along with weekly blood draws and biweekly chemotherapy in Oakland, a 2-hour drive each way. Currently, I am on a clinical trial and I take Avastin (an intravenous chemotherapy drug) biweekly and Temador (a chemotherapy drug by mouth) the first five days of the month.
The doctors at UC Davis fitted me for a mask so I could be bolted down to the table to keep me from moving. The smell of the radiation was unbearable, but I got through it.
Due to the radiation, my eating habits changed; nothing sounded or smelled good. My parents had to get very creative with the food I ate. Most of the everyday foods I eat are fruits, vegetables and whole grains. A lot of my hair fell out, which led me to purchase a wig. It was hard at first because I was a teenage girl with long blonde hair that disappeared so quickly, but that was the least of my worries. I had to fight, and that is exactly what I have been doing.
A few weeks after completing radiation, I started to get really bad headaches and was later diagnosed with cerebral edema. My doctor put me on steroids, which was horrible. I swelled, gained weight and got bad acne. During this time, my family and friends started a team for our local Relay for Life called Team Savana. Together we raised $2,803 for the American Cancer Society, which benefited all cancers.
I had another routine MRI, and we learned that the tumor grew back three times the size in just two short months. Another brain surgery was scheduled. This one took 11 hours and I spent six days in the hospital.
My doctor was able to remove most all of (the tumor), the size of a chicken egg. After that surgery, I was diagnosed with receptive and expressive aphasia and anomia. This happened because during my surgery, my doctor had to get very close to my frontal lobe, which controls everything with my understanding of speech and expressing it.
I am currently working with a speech therapist to try to improve this, but it is still hard to find my words and understand clearly what people are saying to me. I have always been a very good student, receiving mostly A’s with some B’s before all of this. It is harder for me now, but with the help of my teachers, my speech therapist, my family, and my inner strength and determination, I can do this.
My veins have always been small, but because of the chemotherapy my veins were beginning to collapse. The nurses had to poke me two to five times each time I had an MRI, chemotherapy or blood drawn. So I recently had surgery to have a Medi-port inserted around my heart.
Missing school for treatment and having a hard time catching up with homework was extremely stressful. Finally, something excited happened in my life, I was nominated for homecoming queen. The night of the football game, I stood standing with four others in our formal dresses. It was then that I heard over the loud speaker, “The 2013 Homecoming Queen is Savana Bowers”. I won! I was beyond happy and surprised!
I became an Angel Mentor and will shortly be fixed up with another child who is going through the same thing as me. I am very much looking forward to this, because I have learned so much about this terrible disease. If I can help anyone else get through this,that would be great.
College will help me become what I have always wanted to, a veterinarian. I have recently applied to Chico State and Fresno State for fall 2014 enrollment. I know that college will be challenging due to my sickness, but I am determined to go and do great things.
— Savana Bowers