Brain Tumor Survivor, Emily Hayes from Plympton, MA is currently a Junior at Bridgewater State University. Emily is using both her experiences and talents to move herself through school and her future career.

Emily is studying Social Work with minors in Art and Psychology so she can become an Art Therapist. She states that when she was in the hospital during and after brain tumor surgery, she found support in painting. A staff member from a camp visited to create an art project with her, and this fond memory remains with her. She is inspired to bring special memories to other patients going through medical treatments.

Emily’s experiences at school have been filled with opportunities to explore her strengths and work through her challenges. Being a voice for the brain tumor community is important to Emily. Most recently, she and her coed fraternity, Phi Pi Delta, held an event, Brain Cancer Awareness Week. At the event, Emily was a keynote speaker. Her speech created awareness and opened the opportunity for discussion. Emily states “People who knew very little about the brain tumor community were surprised by the experiences shared and this brought out conversations many people may not have had if not for the awareness week.” Additionally, they held a bake sale and a "penny war" to raise money for Children's Brain Tumor Foundation (CBTF)!

Brain tumor survivors face both visible and invisible challenges. It is difficult for survivors to express their challenges for the fear of being different or rejected. The challenges impact both their academic and social life. Emily has grown to be a strong advocate for herself and others through her ability to openly discuss challenges and reach outside of her comfort zone academically and socially. She shared her challenges include fatigue and being able to keep up with her peers. She says it is hard to maintain friendships because she is not taking a full course load, so many of the people she meets will graduate before her.

Emily faced another challenge this past fall semester when her tumor recurred. She started Proton Radiation at Mass General hospital and was able to take her exams a week early – finishing out her semester. She states, “I wished they could just pass me for the semester. But if brain cancer has taught me anything, it’s that nothing comes easy if it’s worth your time, and that hard work pays off in the end.”

Despite these challenges, she feels as if they helped her mature, learn how to problem solve, and become an advocate for herself. In retrospect, she states that “I wish I wasn’t so hard on myself. Even people who didn’t have brain tumors have trouble starting out.”

She also says that “CBTF helped me mature and see myself as a young adult and not a child, who is able to do adult things.” Emily is a mentor, role model and advocate for the brain tumor community. CBTF helps young adult survivors reach their full potential through our life and community building programs. For more information, please email or call 212-448-9494.

Article reprinted with permission.