I wanted to create a post to describe my experience with cancer the first time because I don't think a lot of people know exactly what happened and knowing about the first time will help with understanding the second time.
It all started at the end of October of 2008. Towards the end of the month, I started getting really thirsty all the time. Because of this, I drank a lot, and because I drank a lot, I had to pee a lot. I didn't think too much of it, I just made sure I had water with me all the time and used the bathroom a lot.
The second symptom I started having was headaches. I had had a week of really mild headaches earlier in October, but just took advil for a week and didn't think anything of it. But in early November I started having really severe headaches. They started off not that severe, but by the time I went to the hospital on November 20th they were incredibly bad. Around the time that the headaches started, I started having vision problems too. It didn't start off too bad, my vision wasn't really blurry, it was just hard to focus and hard to read.
After having the headaches for a while, and them getting worse along with my vision, I visited the doctor's. This was around the 12th of November and by this point the headaches were bad enough that my parents and I thought I had a sinus infection or migraines. We also thought migraines because my eyes had started to hurt too. We thought maybe the vision problems were just because of the headaches though, and we had no idea why I was so thirsty. Also, by this time the fact that I was so thirsty was affecting what I was eating. I had trouble eating anything that was dry or salty, and my diet consisted of mostly yogurt, soup, and fruit. Additionally, I was waking up about every 2 hours during the night to pee and drink.
The doctor was pretty confused too, he actually ruled out the possibility of a brain tumor pretty early on. He ended up prescribing an antibiotic for a sinus infection, event though I didn't have all of the symptoms of one, because he didn't know what else it could be. He also scheduled a follow up with a neurologist and an MRI for sometime later in November.
After that, the headaches just started getting worse and it got even harder to see. I was having a lot of trouble in school because of the vision problems, and also because of the headaches. I had to leave early a few days because of the headaches. This was all exacerbated by the fact that I got up every 2 hours during the night.
Wednesday the 19th was the last day that I went to school before I was diagnosed. It was a colloquium, and I didn't feel good and had a bunch of advil to take throughout the day. After school I went with some friends to Panera because I remember that soup was about the only thing I could eat. I was there for a while and probably had about 5 cups of iced tea. My dad picked me up afterwards and in the car I was looking at street signs to test my vision. My dad has really poor eyesight and he was able to read the signs from further away then me. He also looked in my eyes and noticed that they were really dilated.
The next day my headaches and vision were worse and my mom wanted to take me to the ER. She had wanted to before, but I had convinced her that we shouldn't go, lest we take up room needed for someone who was actually sick. I convinced her again, but after we called my dad and told him he told us that we needed to go, so we went.
In the emergency room we met with a doctor who we explained all the symptoms to: the headaches, the thirst, and the vision problems. I then had to do a CT scan of my brain, which is about a 30 second scan. After waiting for a while, he came back and told us that I had 2 tumors in my brain, and that based on where they were, they were most likely germinoma tumors. This explained all the symptoms I was having. The headaches and vision problems were because one of the tumors was blocking the passage of fluid through and around the brain, the headaches were from the buildup of pressure that that caused. The vision problems and eye pain were also because of the pressure, the fluid was pushing up against my eyes, inflaming the optic nerves. The fact that my pupils were dilated is because of the pressure. (After an eye exam, they determined that I had torsional double vision: the image in one eye was the same as in the other, except twisted.) The reason I was so thirsty was because one of the tumors had destroyed my pituitary gland. The pituitary gland has a lot of functions, one of which is producing antidiuretic hormone (ADH) that regulates the amount of water in your body. Because I was not producing this, my body did not retain water, meaning I would have had to pee about every hour regardless of what I drank. The fact that I was so thirsty and was drinking so much was my body preventing me from dehydrating. The name for a deficiency of ADH is Diabetes Insipidus. (This is a website with a more good information on that.)
After getting the CT scan and the results, we met with a bunch more doctors who told us that there were two tumors, one on the pituitary glad, and one on the pineal gland, and based on their locations, they looked like germinoma tumors. They also said that they wanted to do a surgery to relieve the pressure from the fluid buildup and to get a biopsy, removing them would be too risky because of the location. So, I stayed overnight and the next morning, November 21st, I had brain surgery for the first time.