My name is Theresa Stepkowski and I was diagnosed with an anaplastic astrocytoma brain tumor in July of 2001 when I was just 33 years old. My family and friends were so shocked. I was too young to have such an awful disease. Unfortunately, cancer knows no age. It didn't care that I was only 33 and had a 9 month-old baby. I had my first craniotomy at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. My recovery was uneventful. I began receiving radiation therapy in August of 2001. Then, around October 2001 my surgeon informed me that I would need another craniotomy. I went through a gamut of emotions. Angry at my body for putting me through this, angry at my doctor for not doing a thorough job the first time, fear of going through the ordeal again and possibly not recovering to the same extent as the last time, sadness that this was happening to me at all. But underneath all of those negative emotions was happiness that my tumor could be operated on at all. Same people aren't that lucky. Through all the anguish, I realized I was lucky to be in a loving relationship, with a beautiful healthy daughter. I also had a supportive family, caring friends, co-workers, and my new-found friends at the Brain Tumor Support Group. I realized that I mattered to people and needed to fight with every ounce of strength I had. Needless to say, I remained angry with my first doctor, even though it is my understanding that he is a fine surgeon. At this point, I took an extended leave of absence from my teaching job and began
to get second opinions. Of course, all of the doctors that I saw agreed that I needed more surgery. I chose to get my care at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. I had complete faith in the establishment and confidence in the doctor. My second surgery took place in January of 2002. Following my surgery and recovery, I began chemotherapy. I was on chemotherapy for about a year, when my neuoro-oncologist decided it was in my best interest to take me off of the chemotherapy. I am hopeful that it is only scar tissue that remains where the tumor once was. but I must remember to take things a day at a time, and to always remain positive, I believe a Positive attitude is an integral part of my recovery. I firmly believe that our bodies are powerful enough to heal themselves. I am also confident that my strong religious faith will get me through this whole ordeal.
I have read some wonderful, uplifting stories that have taught me never to give up. Stories about people who were given a death sentence from their doctors, and later turned out to have a complete recovery. It is my belief that attitude can make all the difference in the world. Staying positive and believing I can beat this. keep me fighting. I have way too much to live for to let this terrible disease take my life away from me! I want to be around to dance at not only my daughter's wedding; but my grandchild's as well!