Editor’s Note- This is part two of a two part series. Part one ran in Thursday’s edition of The Daily Times.
Spending her 22nd birthday in a hospital bed is the last place Jessie Myers wanted to be. When diagnosed with brain cancer in August 2017, Jessie had to turn her back on the job she loved, and her passion for traveling city to city and focus on her next big journey down the road to recovery.
“I used to be a preschool teacher, which I loved so much. I had to leave that because I was driving two hours every day. I can’t drive now because of my seizure. A lot of who you are is taken from you. I’m 22 and I can’t drive myself places, I paid my own bills, and I can’t do that anymore. Your independence is taken from you. Now I have to tell my mom if I’m going up the stairs. Everything that was normal about your life is no longer normal. If someone has so much as a cold, they can’t come over. You have to be really careful when you go out in public. I wear a mask when I go out, I try not to touch things a lot of people have touched, like shopping carts. You have to get used to people just staring at you, and sometimes just flat out asking you if you’re sick. Complete strangers. That’s every day for me.”
What is normally a major turning point in the lives of many diagnosed with cancer, was just a necessity for Jessie.
“Cutting off my hair wasn’t that bad. It was really hard on my sister, and my friends, but I knew it needed to be done. It’s not what you think it is, in movies and TV it’s this big thing, a courageous act, but it wasn’t. It was just another day and I knew I had to do it, because chucks of hair kept falling out. It was more devastating to have handfuls of hair come out every day than to just go ahead and shave it.”
Jessie laughed as she looked on the positive side of cutting her hair. “Honestly, it’s taken a lot of time off my mornings.”
On whether or not she has been prepared by doctors to undergo treatment, Jessie says she knows what is coming, but can’t predict how It will affect her.
“They’ve given me some insight, but every case is different. It just depends on how my body handles it. I won’t be able to be in any direct sunlight, I’ll always have to wear a hat. I’ll be nauseous, I’ll be really tired, my tastes will change, and my hair will be patchy. “
Jessie has taken it into her own hands to research what can be expected when undergoing treatment, to try and eliminate any surprises.
“I’ve talked to different people, I’ve read articles and blogs, but there’s nothing that can totally prepare you. Before my surgeries I would watch videos of the procedures to know what was about to happen. It just gives you a general idea of what is about to happen”
Throughout this process, the scariest day for Jessie wasn’t in an operating room, but instead filling out paperwork with her mother by her side.
“I filled out a living will and a medical power of attorney. That was probably the scariest part in all of this, looking at my mom with a legal document and telling her that after a week, I want you to let me go. It’s just something I wanted to do to make sure she would never have to make that decision on her own. I can face surgeries fine, but telling your parent what to do with your body if you succumb to this, is real. That was the hardest part, having that looming possibility of death. There’s always that factor at play, something so simple as catching pneumonia could kill you because your immune system is so compromised. I’m not afraid to die, either way I’m going to win because of my faith and beliefs. If I could stay on earth a little while longer with my family, that’s great, but if I die I know where I’m going. That looming fear of being taken off the planet sooner than you expected is the scariest part in all of this.”
Myers has come to realize that dealing with cancer at her young age is both a blessing, and a curse.
“My age is on my side, you can pretty well rebound from anything when you’re 22. At least, that’s what they keep telling me. I definitely think that’s true, everyone around me was hooked onto vents and dying when I was in the hospital, older people, and I was going home two days after brain surgery. I was able to get up by myself, and things like that and it was because of my age. Your body at this age can get through a lot, “ Said Myers.
“But, It is hard to be this age and not have lived enough and you have to be under the microscope. I went from having my own life to having to ask my mom to do anything. When you’re 22 a lot of your innocence and juvenile experiences are taken away from you. Before I got sick I was traveling across the county following one of my friend’s bands, and all of that stopped. I was traveling, seeing new cities, and everything just came to a halt. Being this age with cancer is good for the recovery part, but watching your friends continuing to live their normal young adult lives is hard.”
For Jessie, having to rely on other people is a very hard part of being sick. There is one friend in particular that has gone above and beyond to be by her side during this difficult time and works hard to make her life as normal as possible.
“If I could do a whole story just about Kayla, I would. She’s been the best, there’s no one more loyal than Kayla is. She hasn’t missed a single surgery. She’s an RN and would work a 10 hour shift and drive to Columbus just to sit there all day, just to see me for 10 minutes in ICU and then she would go home. She goes to doctors’ appointments, everything. She knows all my information, she’s the one that took me to the hospital when I had my seizure, and told them my blood type, my birthday, what was wrong with me. She knows everything. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t be where I am in this process. Family will always be there, I don’t take them for granted, but it’s different when there’s a friend that genuinely doesn’t care to come pick you up or take you home, or take you to dinner, or just make plans with you to get you out of the house. Kayla does stuff like for me all the time.”
For the time being, Jessie is just trying to live her life as normal as she can.
“You only get one life. Bite the bullet, get it done and over with. There’s no reason to sit around and sulk, yes somedays you’ll feel really sick, but for the most part just have to keep a positive outlook.”
Jessie is expected to be done with treatment in January of 2019. Going into this next chapter of life and undergoing cancer treatment, Myers holds onto her favorite things, and the hope that when all is said and done, she’ll get to continue on traveling and exploring the nature that she loves so much.
“I have a hammock that overlooks my pond, that’s my happy place. That’s what I look forward to at the end of the day, I reward myself with outside time,” said Myers.
“I’m a big nature enthusiast, I want to go out west to Montana and Colorado and spend a week there just enjoying everything. When all of this is over, that’s where we’re going, out west.”
In the next year, Jessie will be undergoing intense treatments and working hard to overcome her cancer. With the help of a strong support system, loving friends, and a positive attitude, she looks ahead to this battle as just a bump in the road on her long journey to a beautiful life.
Reach: Ivy Potter (740) 353-3101 Extension 1932