A letter found in Karla’s room after she went to heaven…
– Karla Asch-Rosen (june 29, 1990-february 5, 2006)
“I’m 15 years old and this past January, I was faced with the unimaginable. I was a busy teenager with a 4.0 GPA and was actively involved in soccer and my school dance team.
On January 7, 2005, I had to leave my school pep rally early to go for a CT scan for the unbearable headaches I had been having for a few months. After having an MRI to clarify their results, our greatest fears were confirmed – I had a cancerous, inoperable brain tumor called brainstem glioma. I was immediately admitted to the hospital and within the next few days, had surgery to place a tube in my brain, called a shunt, to relieve my excruciating headaches. I also had a portacath (a device to make it easier to access your veins) inserted in my chest for the intravenous chemotherapy that I would be receiving.
I knew the possible outcomes of my horrible condition, yet I was not truly afraid. I am a girl of huge faith and gave my illness completely to God. I believed strongly that God was using me to tell people of His ability to perform miracles, although I wasn’t quite sure what exactly that miracle was going to be. Also, the outpouring of love from everyone around me was amazing. My whole room was full of “get well” gifts from my friends, family, church, classmates, and community. I got boxfuls of cards from everywhere from Chino Hills to Canada to Australia to Iraq (word of mouth had traveled far!) Blue bands were made (they were similar to the Lance Armstrong bands) that say “Amen” on them, and over 10,000 were sold to help with my medical bills.
Despite all of the incredible love and comfort others gave me, I could not avoid the treatments I needed to save my life. For the next six weeks, every day, I not only received radiation to my brain, but intravenous chemo, chemo in a pill form, and steroids (not the ones that give you muscles or anything, ones that doctors use to reduce swelling). It was the hardest time of my life. I was constantly throwing up, had no appetite, and rarely had enough energy to get out of bed.
Also, I had to shave my long, blonde hair that I loved so much. I simply did not want to see large chunks of my hair on my pillow when I woke up in the morning, so I made the painful decision to take care of it myself. I hesitantly started to wear wigs, and after awhile, learned to accept my new “accessory.” The steroids also had side effects of their own. My whole body bloated, especially my face. I went from a size 0 jeans to a size 5. A painful rash broke out on my whole body, again, especially on my face.
That same month happened to be Winter Formal at my school. Although I was getting a tutor at home due to my illness, my class nominated me for Winter Formal court. My friends encouraged me to go, so I built up strength to attend the dance. Despite a wig, a face twice the size of my usual, and a lot of makeup to cover-up my rash, I was able to forget my circumstances for a night, have fun with my friends, and win freshman Winter Formal princess.
Although that night was unforgettable, I still had to return to reality. I was taken off of steroids, and after all of the horrible side effects had ceased I thought that there would be few side effects to come. I was wrong. I was put in the hospital for almost a month, having pancreatitis, typhlitis, esophigitis, and gastritis, all painful stomach complications that banned all food and water. That meant that I had to be placed on IV feeds every night to replace the food and water that was taken away from me for over seven weeks.
Despite all of the terrible things that were going on, I hung on to hope. Getting a taste of fun and friends again at my winter formal allowed me to keep fighting. I did not let go of my faith and still believed strongly that it was all going to be okay in the end. After what seemed like years, it was time for my next MRI. I have to get anesthesia because I am very claustrophobic, so as I was coming out of it, all I heard the doctor say was “It shrunk significantly!” My heart was relieved. All this horrible medicine was working. We were praising God that it was shrinking, but it did not mean that I was taken off the intravenous chemotherapy. For the next couple of months I remained extremely sick, losing over 20 pounds. The time for my third MRI was coming nearer, along with a new test, called a PET scan that determines how active my cancer cells are. I, once again, prayed for a miracle. My prayers were once again answered, this time in a huge way. My tumor had shrunk even more; so much that I no longer had to take the awful intravenous chemo. Also, the PET scan revealed that my cancer cells were mildly active, meaning that they produce at an extremely slow rate. I did, however, still have to take chemo pills, and this would continue throughout my lifetime. They do not make me anywhere near as sick as the IV chemo though, and my body will eventually get used so used to them that they shouldn’t affect me at all. Nobody can say, however, what amazing technology is to come. Who knows? Maybe someone will come up with a cure for cancer.
As for now, after about three months of completely being off of IV chemotherapy, I couldn’t be happier. After missing six months of school, I was able to take on a full schedule of classes this past fall. I have been fully involved in my dance team again, and have begun to start practicing soccer.
I have only known two other people with my condition: one passed away, and one has been struggling for life in the hospital for many months. I now know, because of what I am able to accomplish once again, what miracle God wanted me to pass on – the miracle of life. Thanks to my cancer, I now do not sweat the small things in life and live it to its fullest.”