Today’s blog post is a really special one.
Almost exactly a year ago, we met Maria & Graham.
We were heading to downtown Bethlehem to meet a couple for the first time for a couples’ session, like I’ve done so many times before for engagements and anniversaries.
However, this time was a little bit different.
We didn’t meet Maria through Instagram or Facebook. She didn’t inquire through my website.
Instead, I was connected with Maria throughout The Light Project, a project founded by Blacklevel Photography to provide free sessions for families battling cancer.
I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to battle cancer. When I heard Maria’s story, it stopped me in my tracks. Like us, Maria & Graham met in college at Penn State. We are about the same age. We never crossed paths at Penn State, but we very well could have! And there is so much more we have in common.
But I am so thankful that our paths crossed now though. She is a warrior and a true inspiration,
and I’m so grateful to share her story today:
My name is Maria Young, and I am a 20-something woman living with my husband and dogs in Bethlehem, PA. My husband Graham and I met in college in 2010 and got married in September 2018.
Beginning in December 2018, I started having strange episodes where the room would spin, my right arm and leg would feel tingly, and I would feel pressure above my right eyebrow.
My gut told me that something was not right, but I am known to be a hypochondriac, so I tried to remain calm. These episodes continued to occur, so my PCP decided to send me in for an MRI to ‘rule out anything serious.’
On July 23, 2019, I went in for my MRI without any concern that they would find anything. Shortly after I arrived home from the MRI, my PCP called me and told me that the scan had revealed three lesions, including one in my left parietal lobe that was about the size of a lime. Based on the scan, the doctors suspected either a low-grade glioma or Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
The following week, I traveled to my hometown of Pittsburgh to undergo additional testing at UPMC. Based on the results of neurological exams, blood work, additional MRIs, a lumbar puncture, etc., the doctors determined that it was likely a tumor and that the episodes I was experiencing were seizures. They scheduled me to undergo an awake left parietal craniotomy (brain surgery while awake!) on August 29, 2019 to remove the lime-sized tumor.
Although the operation went extremely well (and was not as scary as I thought it would be!), the pathology results came back and showed that the tumor was malignant. I was officially diagnosed with Anaplastic Astrocytoma (aka Grade 3 Glioma) on September 16, 2019.
On October 1, I began 46 straight days of treatment (chemo and radiation), followed by 12 months of chemo at a higher dose. That’s chemo 5 days per month for a year.
Never did I think it possible that I would get diagnosed with brain cancer in my late 20s and have to undergo aggressive treatment. After brain surgery, 33 sessions of radiation, and 102 doses of chemo, I finally finished treatment on November 1, 2020! I know that my war against this cancer will never truly be over, but for now I have won the battle!
I hope her strength, determination, and positivity inspires you as much as it inspired me.
Maria is raising money for the National Brain Tumor Society here.
Thank you Blacklevel Photography for connecting us to this warrior with this wonderful project.