The View From The Top

By Meagan Chism

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This series is brought to you by United Dairy Industry of Michigan.

You wouldn’t normally hear somebody say getting hit in the head with a baseball bat was a blessing, but my circumstances were anything but normal.

It was my 16th birthday, and I was a sophomore in high school at the time, watching my softball coach demonstrate a drill off the tee. I accidentally stepped behind him a bit too close when he went to swing.

SMACK!

The bat slammed right into my face, right above my eyebrow.

I remember laughing on the way to the hospital because I was obviously in a state of shock. The doctor wanted me to get an MRI as well, just to make sure I didn’t have a serious concussion or anything like that.

My results came back as a minor concussion.

So for a second, if even that, there was a moment to breathe a sigh of relief before the air was knocked out of me by the doctor’s next words.

“We found a mass.”

You could have pushed me and my mother over with a feather in the emergency room after hearing those words.

An unexpected discovery

After undergoing another MRI scan, the mass was diagnosed as ganglia glioma. Fortunately, the tumor found in my scan was benign. It was about 13 millimeters across in length — so, roughly, about the size of a grape.

The craziest part — or perhaps even scariest — is the fact that I had no symptoms. There were no seizures, headaches, nausea or any sort of indication I had anything wrong with me. The only reason I found out was thanks to the softball accident.

Like I said, sort of a blessing.

We decided against surgery, and instead, we were going to wait to see if it grew. The potential for it to increase in size was still there, even if the tumor was benign. Few things are scarier than carrying around a thought like that.

But things got worse around the six-month mark since the tumor’s discovery. That’s when the symptoms started. 

I was having dizzy spells, and not long after that, the nausea started to come more frequently.

As an athlete, you’re sort of taught to be tough and brush off the pain. So that’s what I did. I just assumed it was nothing and kept going about my business. But the symptoms became more frequent and worse.

It was definitely something, and it was becoming harder and harder to ignore.

From bad to worse

I eventually got to the point where I started researching symptoms on my own. Here’s a tip for everyone out there: Don’t!.

Don’t ever look anything health-related up on Google. Trust me, you’ll drive yourself crazy.

When reaching back out to my doctor, we did another MRI and an EEG, where they attached all of these wires to my head to film my brainwaves and see if anything was irregular. Sure enough, it was in fact irregular.

The scans found I was having seizures before I actually noticed I was having seizures. So they put me on a low dose of Keppra to help with those issues, and things slowly went from bad to worse.

The medicine just made me super tired and moody throughout the day.

We had class in high school from 8am-3pm, and I couldn’t even make it through the day without taking a nap. The meds were starting to take a toll on who I was as a person, you know? I was bi-polar. I wasn’t as happy and positive — and it was tiring.

Oh yeah, and on top of all of that, the medicine wasn’t even working.

It eventually got to the point where I was having just as many seizures with the meds as I was without them. So my doctor just kept upping the dose. They upped the dose probably three times, and the side effects got worse every time.

By the time I was a freshman in college, I pretty much just wanted to stay at home. I wasn’t up for getting out and socializing with people. My mental health went down the drain. I didn’t have my parents around anymore, and my friends weren’t there, either.

I was tired.
I was sad.
I was depressed.

You know, college is supposed to be a time where you go to find yourself.

But how do you do that when you no longer have the drive to even look?

After undergoing another MRI scan, the mass was diagnosed as ganglia glioma. Fortunately, the tumor found in my scan was benign. It was about 13 millimeters across in length — so, roughly, about the size of a grape. The craziest part — or perhaps even scariest — is the fact that I had no symptoms. There were no seizures, headaches, nausea or any sort of indication I had anything wrong with me. The only reason I found out was thanks to the softball accident.

Enough is enough

By the time they decided to up the dose a fourth time, I decided that enough was enough. I was ready to take my chances with the brain surgery to have the tumor removed.

It reached a point where I just couldn’t keep living my life like that, you know?

I just wanted to be me again. I didn’t want to take any more medication or worry about seizures. I felt all of that so strongly that I wasn’t even that nervous before my surgery, believe it or not.

Honestly, I was more excited just to finally be done with it.

I was ready to get my life back. I had all of the faith in the world in the doctor that performed my surgery because he was there with me throughout my entire journey. It was only fitting that he be the one to remove the tumor.

And he knocked it out of the park!

Once I opened my eyes, he told me they got all of the tumor out.

It was the perfect surgery — an absolute success.

Finding my way back

I haven’t had a seizure since my surgery.

Coping with something like that isn’t easy, but I was fortunate enough to have so much support along the way. My parents were extremely supportive.

I mean, if I’m being honest, they were probably more worried than I was.

I was still living my life day-to-day and trying to make the best of it.

Meanwhile, they had a kid with a tumor. It’s tough thinking about what they went through as well.

Also, having Coach Poole reassure me constantly that I don’t need to worry about my scholarship here at Memphis was incredibly helpful.

There was a time when I was scared I’d never be able to play again. I guess my experience is a good reminder that you never know when you might lace up your cleats for the last time. 

That’s why it’s so important to give 100% every time you step into the field.

Most importantly, I can’t thank my parents and teammates enough for all they’ve done for me during these testing times. Without them and my faith, who knows how I would have coped with all of this. 

Sometimes, I feel like God almost pushed me into the bat, you know?

I know it sounds a bit odd but when I reflect on this whole experience, a lot of good came off it. It just took a little while to understand.

Above it all, my story is a reminder that we all go through things in life.

No matter what battle you’re fighting, you can always find that light at the end of the tunnel as long as you keep going.

You can always find your way back.

And I think one of my favorite sayings sums up my attitude about all of this perfectly: “Life has its mountains and valleys. But no matter how low the valley or how high the climb to the top of the mountain, the valleys are what make the view from the top that much sweeter.”