Cara A.

When & how I was diagnosed

I’m a two time cancer survivor. Not two times as in I was treated once then deemed in remission, two times as in I was diagnosed in 2006 at age 11 with osteosarcoma, then again in 2010 with a new type of cancer at age 16 called astrocytoma. Ironically, both diagnosis’ were made from situations that occurred due to playing lacrosse. At age 11, after a season of lacrosse, during July I began to notice a sharp pain in my right femur. I went to the doctor, and the day before my 12th birthday, I was diagnosed with bone cancer, or osteosarcoma. In 2010, during my sophomore year lacrosse season, I had a seizure on the field during a game. I was rushed to the emergency room at Morristown Memorial Hospital, where they performed CT scans and found a mass in my brain. I was then transferred to my primary cancer hospital in New York City, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. There, they performed a biopsy and found a malignant stage 3 astrocytoma in my brain.

Treatment experiences

My first diagnosis of osteosarcoma required an initial invasive surgery removing my femur and reconstructing it with titanium rods and pins. A year of chemotherapy and surgeries later, I was in remission. It took 2 years of physical therapy for me to return to my favorite sport – lacrosse. Then in 2010, halfway through this past season, I was taken out of the sport once again. At first they weren’t sure if the tumor was malignant or not. After many tests, they found that it was. On July 22, 2010, I had surgery to remove the tumor. I couldn’t do any physical activities for a month. Then I was told that the tumor could not be completely moved due to risk of brain damage, so I received a month of radiation, which ended 2 weeks ago. As of now, I’m unsure whether or not I’ll need more treatment, but with indoor lacrosse starting in less than a month, I’m hoping that I won’t.

What I have learned

From all of these experiences I’ve learned the importance of cherishing what you have. For example, I couldn’t walk for 2 years, so now every time my lacrosse team runs, instead of whining like some of my teammates, I look at my legs and think about how far I’ve come since my first diagnosis.

How I am feeling now

I’m still tired from radiation, I still get headaches from my brain surgery, and on occasion I have trouble running. Aside from that, I feel great and I’m looking forward to an incredible winter and spring season.

How I got involved

I first heard of HEADstrong at STEPS lacrosse camp summer of 8th grade. I was astonished that there was a cancer foundation based on the sport I play. It made me so happy. Ever since then, I’ve worn a #27 sticker on my stick’s shaft, and wrote relentless on my wrist before every game. It truly inspired me to put my heart into the sport, even when it hurts.