My name is Stephanie and I’m a 28-year-old business owner, Twitch streamer, wife and dog mom, and that is what people see me as… just a normal woman living her life. The only things that physically show that I’m a cancer survivor is an assortment of scars, my radiation tattoos, and a slight limp. A lot of people call me lucky, but truth be told, I have a bit of a complicated relationship with luck. However, when it comes to the world of video game streaming, I’m known as “TheLuckCharm.”
I was one of thousands of adolescents diagnosed with a Soft Tissue Sarcoma the year I turned 16. It was like a lot of other stories, my right thigh was becoming bigger than my left, it didn’t hurt and both my mom and my doctor thought it was muscle, but it kept growing to the point where he referred me to a specialist, who referred us to another specialist, then an MRI, and then a biopsy. What I had was called a “Desmoid Tumor” and about 3 out of 1,000,000 are diagnosed with them every year. I went through surgery that removed most of my right hamstring along with a lot of the tumor and radiation afterwards. I was then monitored for about a year until it began to grow back. Tumor’s like mine are unlikely to spread to other parts of the body, but likely to start growing again, it wasn’t a surprise but it was disappointing to say the least.
It was then that my mom took me to UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital where I met the oncologist and team I credit with saving my leg from another surgery that could’ve left me having to use a cane for the rest of my life. Instead of trying the same thing over, I participated in a clinical trial that focused on hormone therapy, and when I had adverse reactions we did outpatient “light” chemotherapy. Being in Chemo during my senior year of high-school was tough, I missed over 80 days of school, had to quit my job, and it put college on hold for a bit afterwards as well. Being outpatient was different, oftentimes I would sit in the nurse’s room and play my Nintendo 3DS when I wasn’t too nauseous. Then there were days when I couldn’t go to school and didn’t have the strength to be outside, so I would play my PlayStation or write.
After my treatments, I did my best to jump into being social again. It was nice for me to be out of high-school because few people knew what I had went through. As the years passed, my mindset has somewhat changed. Talking about being “sick” sometimes feels taboo, as most survivors don’t want the pity or people feel guilt by asking questions. I have a foot-long scar on my right leg and a port scar on my collar bone. I’ve learned that these aren’t something to be ashamed of, these are badges to be proud of. I’ve gotten better at being open to those who have questions about my tumor and my treatments and not minding when ask about my scars.
When I started using Twitch for streaming, I wanted to make a difference and that’s where I found Teen Cancer America. Their charity spoke to me because as a 16-year-old in radiation, I waited for my treatments in a room of middle-aged women. They were inspiring, but as a young person, it was awkward and sometimes uncomfortable. During my outpatient chemo treatment, I was 18, I spent time in a room, alone, and mostly saw other kids running around outside; most of them were much younger than me. I felt alone most of the time, yet, had I had the opportunity to know and speak with others my age going through similar stuff would have been so amazing. I want to make a difference with teens and young adults who are currently undergoing their treatments and help those who will be doing so in the future. Improving the atmosphere and understanding these teens and young adults is so valuable and can make such a difference in their lives. I’m very excited to help raise funds for TCA, their programs and pleased to be a figure to show others how they too can be a cancer survivor and how it’s made me stronger.