The month of May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month, and one strong cancer survivor is bravely sharing her story of resilience and positivity with our BELLA readers. Thank you, Heliana Lisciandra, for sharing and for being an inspiration to so many…
In honor of May being Brain Tumor Awareness Month, I would like to share my story of survival. My name is Heliana Lisciandra. I am a US Citizen, born in Peru, and grew up in Elizabeth, NJ. For the past 12 years, I have lived in the town of Marlboro.
When I was 36 years old, I was diagnosed with one of the most aggressive brain tumors, Glioblastoma Multiform (GBM). At that time, I was working as a senior pharmaceutical representative and married with two sons, who were 3 and 5 years old. As a result of the tumor’s location, I kept losing my balance and my speech became slurred. My neurosurgeon felt it was too risky to operate. Therefore, I underwent aggressive radiation and chemotherapy. I lost the ability to walk and care for myself. I was in a nursing home for 2 months, because I needed daily speech, occupational, and physical therapy. I lost all of my hair and gained 25 pounds.
Today, I am 43 years old and my tumor cells are present, but stable, for the past six years. The most recent published median survival figure for a person with a GBM is 14.6 months. My neuro-oncologist can only explain my case as a “miracle.” I now get an MRI of my brain and see my neuro-oncologist every six months. I lost most of the weight I had gained and feel that I am in the best physical shape of my life. My hair is longer than before I was diagnosed, and I am eating healthier. The factors that kept me focused to keep fighting to walk again, use my left arm, and speak clearly again, were my husband, who constantly proves his vows of “in sickness and in health,” and my strong and resilient sons, who are now 12 and 9 years old, my strong faith and positive attitude, and strong family support.
I want all cancer patients to know that you can still have quality of life. Yes, you will have to work hard, but it will be worth it. Vanity is the first thing that goes out the window. You start to appreciate the natural things that may have been taken for granted. You will learn to appreciate the simplest things in life and not sweat the small stuff.
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