Over the past month, my friend and roommate Alex has been battling brain cancer. About a month ago, she started having severe headaches and eventually went to the Potsdam hospital. After a few tests, the doctors informed Alex of a large mass in her brain. Unsure of a diagnosis, the team of doctors at Canton-Potsdam Hospital emergency transported Alex to the UVM Medical Center, where she underwent further testing. The results of the testing and scans revealed a large brain tumor taking up most of the right side of her brain. Doctors believed the tumor to have been slow growing, something that could have been there for up to ten years. The team of neurologists determined that the tumor needed to be removed immediately due to the risk of seizures or other complications.
After a few days in the hospital, Alex underwent a five-hour brain surgery, where the doctors took a sample of the tumor for biopsy and removed 90% of the tumor from her brain. Alex spent several days in the hospital recovering from surgery, and then returned to Potsdam. After two weeks, Alex returned to the doctor’s office for an appointment and was informed that the tumor removed from her head was in fact cancerous. Doctors removed the majority of the tumor during surgery, but she now must undergo chemo and radiation therapy to ensure that all of the cancerous cells have been destroyed.
Alex currently works as an athletic trainer at SUNY Potsdam and has played a large role in my life over the past few years both as my athletic trainer during my time as a member of the women's hockey team, as well as being my roommate and close friend this past year. Due to her medical condition, she has been forced to take a leave of absence from work in order to focus on her health. Following her surgery, Alex’s strength is slowly returning and she is remaining positive and motivated to continue this battle.
This past year has been extremely difficult for Alex’s family, as just over a year ago Alex lost her father to a battle with cancer. Christopher Berking passed at the age of 54 after a one year battle with colon/rectal/brain cancer. His cancer had gone undiagnosed, and by the time it was treated, it was too late. Alex has gotten extremely lucky, as her tumor was found, diagnosed, and treated early. Alex's mom has been extremely supportive of her and the rest of her family over the past year. She is currently living in our apartment with Alex to make sure Alex is well taken care of.
Alex's younger sister, Meghan, has also been very supportive throughout this process. Just this past summer, she participated in a fundraiser for cancer research in memory of Alex’s father. Meghan and 27 other college students ran 4,000 miles across the US from San Francisco to New York City for the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. Meghan participated in this fundraiser to support her father, but little did she know this would soon support Alex as well.
Read about Meghan’s story here:http://potsdambears.com/news/2017/6/21/general-berking-running-across-the-nation-for-cancer-awareness062117.aspx
According to the Neuro-Oncologist in charge of Alex’s case, it is recommended that she undergo a combined chemotherapy and radiation treatment over the period of 11+ months. Radiation would take place 5 days per week for 6 weeks. She would then take a one month rest period. After that month, she will begin the first 6-week chemo cycle, which would then be repeated 5 more times.
Alex hopes to complete her radiation therapy and return to work at SUNY Potsdam. Alex will be undergoing treatments at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. She will be living in a hotel in Boston for 6 weeks while undergoing radiation treatment. After completing her radiation treatment, she will be returning to Potsdam to complete chemotherapy, and hopefully return to work at the same time. Her family is going to endure medical, living, and travel costs over the next few months that will no doubt add up. I would love to be able to support her during this time of need, and let her family know they are not alone in the fight.
Any donations received exceeding what will be necessary for Alex to overcome medical expenses will be donated back to cancer research.