Nick’s House Spotlight – Trista Myers
At first, Trista Myers thought that her back pain at the beginning of the year was sciatic nerve pain as she had suffered through that previously while pregnant with each of her three sons. However, it got progressively worse, to the point where she was up in the middle of the night crying in pain because nothing was helping.
After a visit to her general practitioner in April and nothing showing up on an x-ray as a cause for the pain, Myers was referred to a sports medicine specialist and underwent six weeks of physical therapy before receiving an MRI. Her doctor saw something in her back and did a second MRI, this time with contrast, and found a tumor.
Myers was then referred to a neurosurgeon but couldn’t get an appointment for a few weeks, and not knowing exactly what the MRI meant, had many unanswered questions. She emailed the neurosurgeons office to ask about the MRI results and received a call back almost immediately.
“The nurse said ‘I have a neurosurgeon that is going on vacation tomorrow. How long will it take you to get here?,’ Myers explained. “I said I live about an hour away but I can get in my car right now and she said ‘ok as long as you’re here by 2 p.m. we’ll get you in, because if I was ever going to have surgery on my back, which it looks like is what you need, I would want it to be him.’ Obviously that worried me even more because I’d never had surgery before.
“I got down there and he explained everything to me, including the diagnosis of a malignant spinal tumor, showed me my MRI and did some more scans.”
On September 6th Myers underwent 15 hours of surgery to remove the majority of the tumor. The big tumor, which was about 6 inches, had wrapped around the nerves in her back and in her spinal canal, and there were also drop down spinal metastases that had to be dealt with. As such they couldn’t remove everything, and also replaced some bone from her spine with metal. During the surgery, Myers lost a lot of blood and had to spend nine days in the ICU following surgery before a short stint in rehab to get her feet back under her.
Now, she is doing a six-week round of radiation at Penn, doing both proton and photon therapy five days a week. Living over three hours away, Myers struggled with the thought of having to stay in a hotel alone during her treatment cycle before a social worker at Penn recommended Nick’s House to her.
“The people here are amazing,” she said. “Not only the staff and the volunteers but the patients here. They make it feel really homey, we sit and talk for hours and share stories. In a hotel I’d be very isolated and that’s how I felt at the hospital. I was in the ICU so I couldn’t see my kids. I miss them but I’m not crying every night because I miss them so much. I’m surrounded by people and it’s nice. What HEADstrong is doing is absolutely amazing. It’s beyond words.”
For Myers, her support system has made all of the difference during this time. Fiercely independent, she didn’t want to ask for help, but her mother-in-law, mom, dad and two sisters have all stepped up and are each taking a rotation to stay with her while she’s undergoing treatment while her husband stays home with her 16, 12 and 6 year old sons. She, as well as her family, are so appreciative of everything that HEADstrong and Nick’s House has to offer her.
“When I was asking my older son what he wants for Christmas he said ‘Mom, you being able to stay there, that’s gift enough for me,” Myers said. “My older one really understands what a burden it would have been to try to stay in a hotel and it was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders when I got in here. He sees that and recognizes what kind of family this is.”
Long term, Myers will have to undergo MRIs every three months to monitor the tumor. Then it is on to her next adventure, becoming a nurse! A CNA in a nursing home, she was almost finished with the LPN program prior to treatment. Myers will resume classes in April and graduate in July. From there, the goal is becoming a pediatric nurse.
“I love working with kids,” she said. “When my little one was two he ended up at the children’s hospital in Danville with RSV and the nurses were so amazing with him. Ever since then I knew I wanted to be a nurse, that’s what I wanted to do and I knew I wanted it to be with kids. That’s what I’m striving for!”
To help other patients like Trista, donate to the HEADstrong Foundation at headstrong.org/donate and to learn more about Nick’s House visit headstrong.org/our-services/nicks-house/.