Part 7, cancer free: Former Bolton teacher rebounds as brain tumors disappear
Editor’s note: This is the seventh part of the occasional “Learning to Live Again” series on Dianne Young, the former Bolton High School yearbook sponsor and Millington resident who has been fighting a rare form of brain cancer for the past two years.
Dianne Young has traveled her own long and winding road since April 2013, when she was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme,a rare and inoperable kind of brain cancer.
She was given about three months to live. And she is still here, two years later, relishing the wonderful news that she is in remission.
Young got the word about eight weeks ago when she went in for a routine MRI and heard the results from her oncologist.
He greeted her, “Hello there, Miracle Lady.”
All four tumors were gone.
“All I was wanting and praying is for them not to have grown,” Young said Monday. “Instead, it was God granting my entire wish in one fell swoop.”
The welcome news was a little hard to process at first. She had endured month after month of grueling cancer treatment that left her too weak to fight off complications.
Her immune system was weak, and she nearly died from pneumonia in March 2014.
A severe leg infection in April left her with a destroyed tendon and a painful skin graft, and her doctor took her off cancer treatment for months while she healed.
She retired from her teaching career at Bolton High in June because she was too weak to continue.
So when Young braced herself to hear the MRI results this year, she was not expecting such good news.
Her friends and family accepted the good news more readily, she said.
“Everybody else was much more accepting immediately. There were so many tears of joy shared.”
In addition to the traditional medical treatment for her cancer, she relied on her strong religious faith to sustain her daily, and she kept looking for new things to try to help fight cancer.
Young said over the past six months she even tried an herbal reflexology treatment with her doctor’s permission — using frankincense applied to the tips of her toes.
“I was willing to try anything,” she said.
Whatever it was that worked, she is happy.
Young said, “It’s a combination of God’s miracles, the power of medication, the power of prayer, and the use of frankincense.”
She is savoring her return to daily pleasures and small freedoms. Her doctor cleared her to do as much as she’s comfortable doing as long as she is careful.
She can now drive short distances to her sons’ school or her husband’s workplace without having to ask friends for rides.
She hopes to plant a small garden this spring, and she is getting 25 new chicks on April 27 so her family can enjoy fresh eggs again.
As her strength returns, she is volunteering more with Boy Scouts, and she plans to continue volunteering at her sons’ school.
“I feel great,” Young said. “I have so much energy. I have to slow myself down because I don’t want to trip. I don’t want to fall.”
Topping her wish list for now is a summer road trip with her husband and the boys if they can work out the scheduling, Young said. “That’s my greatest desire.”
Young also appreciates that she is returning to a more active role in her life and all the family’s tasks don’t fall on her husband, Robert, anymore now that she is recovering. Over the past two years, he has taken care of work, family life and her, with support from family and friends. He began playing the banjo recently as a form of stress relief.
“He’s been exhausted for months,” Young said. “…He’s been a rock.”
The health struggles over the past two years did not leave Young totally unmarked. Her skin is thin and fragile, and small bumps can tear it. She bleeds easily. She is steadier on her feet but has to remain careful not to fall.
Symptoms that developed slowly will take a long time to fade, her doctor advised.
Some damage is permanent, like the skin graft scar on one thigh.
Nerve endings in her arm may not recover the trauma of treatment. Her voice may not regain its strength. She will never have full mobility in her right ankle again after an infection destroyed tendons.
“Those are three things I can pretty much count on,” she said. She remains grateful for life anyway.
Young is currently taking steroids, Namenda (a drug to keep her brain stimulated and active) and a diuretic to keep her from retaining water because of the steroids. She will continue taking an Avastin drip for cancer prevention purposes, probably for about six months.
She shrugs off the list of strong medicines she must continue for a while longer. “It’s just tiny – miniscule compared to what I've been up against.”
Young said she is happy to talk to anyone who wants encouragement when faced with glioblastoma, her type of brain cancer. She can be reached via email to email@example.com.
Editor's note: Friends and family recently celebrated Young's remission with a party. Read their comments from the event, where they talked about their affection for her and how she's inspired. them.
Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.