September is Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month. At PCFLV, we are committed to spreading the GOLD all year long. However, in September, we truly make it our mission. 30 Days, 30 Stories celebrates the children we know and love and the brave battles they fight and have fought, with their families by their sides. In celebrating these beautiful children and their stories, we hope to inspire you to join us in our mission to SPREAD THE GOLD in September and all year long!
I think everyone would agree the worst three words ever heard are... "YOU HAVE CANCER." Believe it or not, there is something even worse...at the age of 18 being told that you have a GBM tumor (Glioblastoma Multiforme) stage IV Brain Cancer. To quote my first oncologist, " You've got the short end of the stick, and I can guarantee this is what you're going to die from. With treatment survival rate maybe 2 yrs". Needless to say, we found a different oncologist. I must admit having heard that lit a fire under my butt and I am (H.E. double hockey sticks) bent on proving her wrong. And Yes, this is what Sen. John McCain has.
Hi! My name is Jordon Reckling and this is my story. It was my senior year of high school. My only "concerns" were finishing my graduation project, finals, college visits and what to wear to prom. Normal senior issues...Everyone kept telling me that it was normal to be nervous about the future, that feeling anxious during this time was typical for kids my age, that I had a lot going on and senior year was stressful for everyone! No reason to stress...right? I knew this was all true, but I felt different and at the time I couldn't put my finger on it. I just knew something was not right. Since about sixth grade, I've struggled with a little anxiety. I didn't like crowds and I was often afraid to try new things or meet new people. Many people my age would call this social anxiety.
Around January 2016, I started having these episodes...I'd get dizzy, shaky inside and nauseous. These episodes continued periodically for months, until I finally told my parents. They thought maybe I was having panic attacks. We went to the doctor, he ran some tests, EKG and bloodwork. Everything seemed normal, the doctor suggested I try some medicine for anxiety (a mild dose) then follow up in a few. We got the prescription filled, but I didn't start taking the medication. I was too afraid after reading the warning label and side effects.
My symptoms got worse, I started to get a metallic taste in my mouth and could smell a sour odor that nobody else noticed. I'd get this overwhelming feeling of dread. I started having issues with light bothering my eyes and getting headaches. My mom had a gut feeling that something else was going on and we should ask the doctor for an MRI and CT scan. When we went to see him, he agreed and made the arrangements for the following week. In the meantime, he suggested taking the medication for anxiety. So that Friday night, I took the first tablet before bed. By Saturday, I felt terrible... my stomach was upset and I couldn't eat. We had plans for a girl's day, but no matter how I tried I couldn't enjoy myself (it's not like me to turn down ice cream). That night I took another dose and went to bed early. I got sick throughout the night.
The next morning, was April 3rd for me this is when things get hazy. I remember seeing my mom enter my bedroom. She was talking to me, but I couldn't respond. I remember wanting to talk and reply to my mom, but the words would not come out. My tongue felt so heavy. I saw things happening around me, but I could not respond. I felt numb all over and felt as if I were suffocating. Almost as if I was drowning; I honestly thought..." This is it, I'm dying." Then everything went black ...
In the hospital, I awoke in the middle of a CT scan (I freaked out) I was pretty much medicated the rest of the day to prevent from seizing. Later, I found out this all had been a grand mal seizure. My parents were told the scans showed a mass on the right temporal lobe of my brain. I was scheduled for surgery (a craniotomy) few days later.
Most of that time I was in and out of consciousness, I don't remember much. I do recall celebrating my older sister's birthday the day before my surgery. We sang "Happy Birthday" and joked around about doing it early... just in case I wouldn't remember the words! Humor/sarcasm has always been a way to deal with life's mishaps. Joking around is comforting for us as a family. Besides laughing sure beats balling your eyes out!
My surgery was successful, 98% of my tumor was removed without major issues. I had an AWESOME team of doctors and nurses. At that time, I had no idea what my true
diagnosis was... Although I'm sure my parents had a deeper understanding; the severity of all this. Everyone said, I looked great and I was doing well. I thought so too. I could walk and recognize my family (Many people are not that lucky after a surgery like mine). I was alert enough to joke with the medical staff. A few days later, I was released from the hospital and met with that first oncologist...(you know the one I spoke about earlier).
For me, the seizure and surgery happened so quickly, at the time it was hard to process everything. Once I understood what was really going on and how serious this is... "Finding our new normal" and getting a second opinion. Deciding which treatment direction to take... I began to realize the importance of all this. And how fragile life really is...and in a strange way the blessings that came along with it. Looking back... I've realized that cancer has changed me forever, but that doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. Having cancer has made me more open to trying new things. I'm braver and stronger than I ever thought possible. I graduated with honors, made it to Prom, found out who my true friends are. Conquered radiation treatments, lost my hair and started chemo. Just like everyone else I have good and bad days. My future is uncertain that's for sure. For now, I live from MRI to MRI and look forward to celebrating my 20th birthday.
I have hope that some day there will be a cure for Brain Cancer. My dream is to raise awareness and make Brain Cancer as recognized publicly as Breast Cancer. Each day 219 people are diagnosed with a Brain Tumor. Although, not all are GBM, Glioblastoma Multiforme is the most deadly of all Primary Brain Tumors and we need more research, funding, treatment options and ultimately a cure.
Cancer sucks, but for me this has been an incredible learning experience. I've been blessed by so many people. I've had opportunities available to me that I never would have taken advantage of in the past. I went to my first rock concert, zip lined, and flew on a plane. Thanks to PCFLV I found out I LOVE ICE HOCKEY! (who knew). In some ways I feel more alive than ever before and free. I'm not afraid to live life anymore. I have a stronger faith in God and his plan for me. I notice little miracles all the time. God puts people in our lives for a reason and every day is gift. Cancer has made me appreciate every moment of every day. And God & family can get you through anything.