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Keeping the Faith




Submitted by:
Cullen Epley

Carolyn Epley was diagnosed with grade 2-3 Oglioastrocytoma in September 2006.  She had surgery to remove her tumor on September 19th.  She was 29 at the time and our children were 3, 6, and 9 years old.

Carolyn was basically a single mom with three kids when we got stationed here in San Antonio in September 2005.  I was in medical school learning to be a Physicians Assistant and she was bearing the family burden for both of us.  When the provider finally ordered her MRI, they were looking for a pituitary tumor and they found an Oglioastrocytoma incidentally.  We should have known something was not right when the MRI techs said that we should be hearing from her doctors the next day.  

The surgery took about 6 hours.  When the surgeon came out he said, “I think I did some of my best work.”  When I saw Carolyn for the first time post-op she could not even smile with her right side of her mouth, but slowly the sensation began to return.  Unfortunately, the sensory function did not bring the motor control with it.  Two weeks in the rehab hospital saw her battling spastic heimparesis over the entire right side.  She learned to bear weight, and walk with a cane, but her gait was forever altered.  Basic life functions all became challenging or virtually impossible.

Since the surgery, she has endured 28 months of oral chemotherapy.  The taste of which has ruined grape kool aid for her.  She has endured a wrist fracture and surgery that was caused by her difficulty with balance.  Her uncorrectable gait caused the two lowest vertebrae in her spine to grind her disk out of place.  The required surgery went well.  She has endured to see her oldest graduate high school to pursue his own career in the medicine.  She has endured the little things like not getting to teach her daughters how to braid their hair or paint their nails.  She has endured countless tests and scans, and headaches that won’t go away fast enough.  She even endured, at 19 years old, the loss of her own mother to Metastatic Brain Cancer. She may cry from time to time, but this woman is the picture of strong.  She is fiercely loyal, she epitomizes common sense (to make up for my lack thereof) and she loves her family to the moon and back.  Last week we celebrated her 9th alive day and we are fortunate beyond words can express that she is still in our lives.  We hope to have her with us for many more alive days and birthdays and family celebrations to come.