“Am I Gonna Die?” Emma-Jane Hinton’s Fight of Persistence

Lindsey Smith , Arts and Entertainment Editor

“Am I gonna die?”

   

   Her name is Emma-Jane Hinton and on June 26th, 2020, she had to ask herself that question. She received a startling, while simultaneously long-awaited diagnosis and, after facing constant pain before the results, at least she now had an explanation–some sort of justification for the pain. Yet, how does one deal with such news? How can someone cope with facing the question of life or death? One simple scan, a black and white, iridescent looking piece of film was, quite literally, responsible for a life. 

   For freshman Emma, as most call her, the diagnosis was awaited for quite some time. “I was diagnosed on June 26th, 2020. Prior to that, I had been in constant, extreme pain for about a month and I was in and out of tons of doctor offices.” Even with some sort of reassurance that comes with the knowledge that doctors are trained in the skill of saving lives, it is difficult to feel any sense of calmness when the same doctors refuse to acknowledge the problem at hand. “Doctors were sort of telling me that there was nothing really wrong with me and that I couldn’t really be feeling the pain because I was so young. My mom even asked for me to have an MRI done and the doctor refused, saying that I didn’t need one.” 

   For Emma, it took more than severe and persistent pain, instead it took swollen nerves and uncontrollable muscle movements in order for others to listen and see exactly what was going on and what she was experiencing. “By the time that June 26th rolled around, I was honestly so fed up with the pain, all the doctor visits, and just not knowing what was wrong. And, by this point, not only was I feeling the same pain, but my eyes were crossing by themselves. One day me and my mom were sitting in my living room and she was like ‘stop doing that’ and I [said], ‘doing what?’ I didn’t even know my eyes were crossing…”

   After a month of pain, the aggravation of dismissal and the simple fact of not knowing what was wrong, a test was done and the process of a diagnosis went underway and the results confirmed it was a Geriminoma brain tumor, a rare tumor that affects the nervous system and the brain.  

   “My mom made an appointment at the eye doctor and they did an exam, and I could tell that something was wrong. My mom and the doctor weren’t really trying to tell me exactly what was going on at first, but the nerves in the back of my eyes were extremely swollen. From there we went to the ER, they did my first MRI, and they found out I have a brain tumor.” 

   There was the initial shock. Then there was the thinking–the planning–it was time to face reality, and that was a whole challenge within itself. “When they finally told me what was wrong after they spoke to my mom, I kinda just sat there for a second, and the only thing I said was, am I gonna die?” It was the first punch to the gut, unexpected and hard, but there’s always a way to recover and stand up straight again, for Emma, she had to find out how. “The nurse and my mom told me no [I was not going to die] and then I just kind of shook my head, thinking to myself, well if I’m not going to die, I can get through whatever is to come, and it’s been a journey since then!”

   Emma underwent numerous types of treatment including brain surgery, chemotherapy, and proton therapy, and the side effects of each were not comfortable. “After surgery, I was in the hospital for about a week. I started chemotherapy the day after my 13th birthday, Oct. 5th, 2020, and ofc, there were tons of side effects. I had chemo every 2 weeks every Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday and for that entire week of chemo, I wouldn’t eat. I was extremely tired all the time and threw up all the time, like I had either a trash can or throw-up bag with me at all times. I lost all my hair: my eyebrows, my actual hair, my arm hair, my armpit hair, and because chemo kills all your cells, the good and bad, my blood counts were very low, so it was hard for me to walk without feeling short of breath, and just perform daily tasks. I also had a bunch of blood infusions to help increase my blood counts. I completed chemo on Dec 17th and started proton therapy radiation on Jan 28th, 2021! There were not many side effects during radiation other than extreme tiredness and maybe also a lot of stress and anxiety from me being sort of fed up with everything and wanting to give up. Also, some long-term symptoms I have are sort of loss of concentration and I sort of get frustrated because I feel that I can’t perform to the extent that I’d [done] before my tumor when it comes to academics. And along with that there’s the long-term medical issues that I’ll have for the rest of my life, and that I have to learn to work around and cope with!”

   When experiencing trauma, there’s a scientifically proven term referred to as the “fight or flight response.” Emma has the fight response. Her mind switched over from shock to acceptance, now she has hopes that her story can inspire others. “I definitely don’t find it difficult at all to talk about what I went through. I think talking about it was my way of accepting it at first, and now I actually enjoy talking about my journey so that I can be an inspiration to people and show them that if I can go through what I went through, and, I think, come out stronger, experienced, a more mature person, they can get through whatever they’re going though!”

   In tough times, Emma suggests that a head held high and a positive outlook is the perfect cure. “When it comes to giving advice to people going through something difficult, I would say just keep your head up and be positive. It’s a motto in my family that God doesn’t put you through anything you can’t handle and I would constantly repeat that in my head, I knew that, although it may be a struggle, and I may break down at certain points and feel like giving up, I will get through whatever I am going through.” 

   Emma was recently diagnosed with NED (No Evidence of Disease). She continues to pursue her ambitions of becoming a pediatric brain surgeon and help change the future of medicine. “I really want to be a pediatric brain surgeon. I always wanted to be in the medical field, but through my experience, I know what these kids are going through and it’ll be a more personal experience. That and  traveling the world before I get old.”

   Emma learned how to cope with a seemingly impossible situation and hopes that her own experience of grieving, accepting, and dealing will inspire others and help them to achieve their own desirable results. Life throws curve balls every which way, but, as Emma has shown, it takes a smile, a positive attitude, and persistence to come out unscathed.