Jessica Meyer: A Different Perspective on Life

Jessica Meyer: A Different Perspective on Life

“Why be Negative? Be Positive!!!”

Jessica Meyer was introduced to Heart of the Brain when she and Isabel connected on Instagram earlier this year. Jessica, who recently celebrated her 18th birthday, and her family live in Nashville, Tennessee.  At the age of 11, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Entering into 5th grade, she had no identifiable symptoms at the time. When the tumor did present itself, she had a loss of peripheral vision in her right eye.

One day, while shopping with her mom, they located an eye exam kiosk in a store. Jessica thought it would be fun to do the exam. Her left eye was perfect. When she checked the right eye, she couldn’t see everything and it appeared that she only had about 50% of her peripheral vision.

Immediately following that exam, the Meyers scheduled an appointment at Vanderbilt Pediatric Ophthalmologist. There, additional tests were performed. An MRI was ordered because it appeared there was a mass behind Jessica’s right eye. Later that week, radiology results showed that she had a tumor and surgery was needed.

The operation was performed at Monroe Carell Jr Children’s Hospital Vanderbilt. Due to the location of the tumor, this surgery was scheduled as a biopsy resection. To access the tumor, the surgeons needed to go through her nasal passage into her skull. Following the surgery, the pathology results came back as brain cancer.

Immediately after surgery, Jessica went through her first 4 rounds of Chemotherapy, 24 cycles of radiation, and then a “wait and watch” period to see how she responded to the treatment. The type of cancerous tumor she has is called a Germinoma and is located in the Suprasellar region of her brain, directly behind her right eye. Since treatment, she has about a 1/3 of her peripheral vision blocked compared to when the tumor was first found. The Meyer family is grateful she didn’t have complete blindness.

As related by Jessica and her dad, it is a pretty rare tumor, most often not found in the brain and, typically, germs cells migrate to the reproductive organs. Strangely, this tumor is also more common in adults, and specifically men. Lucky for Jessica, it didn’t travel down her spine, but it spread from her Pituitary to her Hypothalamus, and Optic Chiasm.

Jessica spent 5th grade undergoing treatment, receiving chemotherapy and radiation. The protocol for this cancer hasn’t really changed much over the years. Though treatment is very successful, it’s also extremely harsh. Despite these hurdles, Jessica maintained her amazing spirit and attitude. Since Germinoma tumors are rare, there is little to no research being conducted. However, Jessica and her family were told, if you’re going to have a cancer, a Germinoma responds well to treatment.

Over the course of the next two years, Jessica regained her strength and life got back to some sense of normalcy. She has lingering health issues including vision impairment, suppress hormones, Diabetes Insipidus, and Adrenal Insufficiency.

“Going through this really matures you too.  I feel almost like an adult. Obviously, I am 18 now, but back when I was younger and just out of treatment, I felt like an adult cuz I had a different perspective on life, counted my blessings and didn’t take anything for granted.”

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Jessica’s dad, Erich, adds: “It was a little difficult for her socially because there wasn’t that link, until recently, with friends that caught up to her maturity. The kids that were between 12 and 15 didn’t really understand or have any connection to what she was going through.”

Jessica’s proud dad shared how Jessica uses her experiences to helps others through public speaking engagements for various pediatric cancer charitable organizations. “Part of her advocacy is making speeches and PR appearances for charities and different celebrity fundraising events. Now that she’s 18, she is broadening her scope of inspiration and influence. She is working with PBTF (Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation), and has done fundraising for them as well. Since COVID hit, there are fewer in-person events, but she continues to participate in some celebrity ZOOM interviews and communications back and forth with people.”

Jessica receives annual MRI scans to confirm there is no change in the tumor. She does all she can to stay healthy in her mind, body and spirit, but there is always a bit of anxiety until she receives her radiology results. Every time she gets a headache, they worry, despite the fact that headaches were never an original symptom.

“I know it sucks that you may be going through something difficult, either at a job, an illness, or you’re fighting cancer. Whatever the case may be, you can be upset about it, but why be negative and carry that negativity throughout the rest of your day or even the rest of your life? It’s ok to be sad about it, but still stay positive. Being negative is not going to help anything.”

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Jessica’s words of wisdom and encouragement to others:

1: Positivity, stay strong, keep fighting, and you got this! Don’t let anything get in the way!

2: Always keep a sense of humor! VERY important. Laugh as often as you can and keep smiling.

3: Have a strong, supportive system and people you can count on. Jessica’s family and grandparents were amazing advocates and constant sources of strength and resources.

As of today, after receiving intense chemotherapy and radiation, she continues to have annual MRIs which show tumor shrinkage and no additional growth.

As for Jessica’s future plans? She is in her Senior year of high school, and due to COVID, all her classes are online. She is also taking additional classes at her local community college so she can “double dip”. This way, when she graduates high school in June, Jessica will already have many college credits.

Jessica plans to major in Broadcast Media in college. She already has a head start given all her public speaking appearances, including a 45-minute Powerpoint presentation for the Pediatric Medicine Annual Conference in Chicago. Her desire is to work in public speaking, broadcast media, social media, or similar influencing roles. Jessica’s resiliency and positive attitude both inspires others as well as helps her overcome her challenging health issues, all while looking forward to a bright and successful future.

Her dad Erich added: “If you go to Jessica’s Instagram feed @positivelyjessica, it provides a good timeline of her story, after treatment, a little bit during, and you’ll see some of her PR and clips of speeches she has done. You’ll see her little bald head.”

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