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Kelsey Flanigan Headshot

Voice of Young Adult Cancer: Who, Me?

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Two days before I was supposed to leave Thailand and head back to the U.S., my post-college graduation travel high came to a cold stop when I woke up on a boat covered in blood and dirt with a swollen tongue. I asked my friend what happened and she looked at me like I was crazy. She took me out to the stern of the boat, sat me down and in what seemed like feature film slow-mo said, "Kelsey, you had a seizure." As she described what had happened back at the boat dock, I had no recollection whatsoever. A week later, doctors back in New Jersey would tell me I had suffered a full tonic-clonic seizure. Needless to say, eating pad thai would never be the same.

The dizzying days that followed led me to an MRI, which revealed a brain tumor the size of a grapefruit that was pregnant with triplets (and I had always wondered why my head was so big!) Within hours, I was at an emergency appointment with a neurosurgeon.

To my then-limited knowledge of the brain tumor business, the thought of surgery didn't even cross my mind. In the shock of finding out, perhaps I thought they disintegrate into thin air? Well, surprise, surprise -- they do not. The surgeon looked at my MRI scans and said that the tumor needed to come out within two weeks. Excuse me, but... out of my head? Meaning you, sir, are going to open my head & look inside my brain? Hmm. Intriguing.

Two weeks later I had my first ever-surgery, a craniotomy. You would think I would at least break a leg or maybe an arm as a rite of passage, but I decided to jump in headfirst and go right for the good stuff.

Making the grade
"Ignorance is bliss" was never more applicable during the time spent waiting for my biopsy results. Soon enough, the words "Grade 2 Mixed Glioma" rang in my ears until a few weeks later, when "Grade 3 Anaplastic Astrocytoma" would haunt me far more as my confirmed diagnosis.

I will be entering my sixth week of radiation and chemotherapy this week. Trust me, I'm not here to give you the blow-by-blow clinical overview (you can find that lots of other places). I'm here to share my skewed (and hopefully entertaining) views on life with cancer and what I've learned about health and wellness. Acupuncture -- you did nothing except stab me in the back, thanks a lot. Reiki & reflexology -- love 'em, more on that later. Ashrams -- ehhh, way more on that later, as well.

I've been nearly asymptomatic in my treatment thus far. So, tune in for no-bull insight; I'll share with you my "mellow vegan, yet aggressive kickboxing lifestyle" that seems to be working for me. Because, sometimes you just need to punch something. I've even started a new trend called female pattern baldness. It's really catching on at the hospital.

Stay tuned...

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