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Taylor battles against cancer

Sophomore going through chemo, plans to return to ESU in fall

  • LEFT: Morgan Taylor, sophomore elementary education major, during the summer of 2013. Morgan said her headaches didn’t get bad until last fall. RIGHT: Taylor on April 29, after moving back to Texas and receiving chemotherapy. (Photos Courtesy Morgan Taylor)
  • LEFT: Morgan Taylor’s, sophomore elementary education major, tumor as of Nov. 19. RIGHT: On March 25, the only thing left is a cavity where the tumor used to be. (Photos Courtesy Morgan Taylor)

She almost died last November.

But Morgan Taylor, sophomore elementary education major, continues to keep fighting against brain cancer.

“I think I’m pretty much the same person. I just try to be the best person I can be,” Taylor said. “Now, I want to help others even more.”

In December, Taylor was diagnosed with glioblstoma multiforme, which is a grade IV tumor that comes from cells that “make up supprotive tissues in the brain,” according to the American Brain Tumor Association.

The realization that something was medically wrong came last semester.

“I knew there was something going wrong because I’ve always had headaches my whole life, but last year was worse, and I would periodically get them really bad, but I never thought of it as bad,” Taylor said. “I thought it was just typical headaches.”

While visiting her boyfriend’s grandparents, Taylor said that his grandmother told her that her eyes looked like they were wandering, and when Taylor would try to reach out for the wall, it felt like she couldn’t grab it in the right way.

“This didn’t happen until toward the end…but it was like I was drunk-walking,” Taylor said. “So I was at Walmart once by myself, and it was like all of a sudden I wasn’t in control of my body. I was terrified. That’s when I knew something was really wrong. And so then I just stood there and I was tearing up until I called my mom to talk to me.”

One day over fall break, she got a headache and it never went away.

“A lot of times, I would just excuse myself to the bathroom until the pain absolved and I had tears in my eyes,” Taylor said.

At first, Taylor tried going to her primary care doctor, but she said the doctor wasn’t very helpful.

“Nobody ever believed me,” Taylor said.

The pain continued to get more intense and it had traveled to her neck, so finally Taylor called her sister, Stephania Nelson, senior elementary education major, and asked her take her to the emergency room at Fort Riley in Manhattan, Kan.

“At that point, I was tired of her feeling bad,” Nelson said.

While they were there, the doctor told Taylor and Nelson that he thought they wouldn’t find anything, but corrected himself when he got the results back from the CT scan.

“He came back and was like, ‘Actually, it looks like there is something there,’” Taylor said. “Honestly, I wasn’t freaked out or anything. I was just like, ‘Yeah, I know.’”

Taylor’s and Nelson’s parents live in San Antonio, Tex., so they were far away during this time, but luckily, their father had been previously stationed at Fort Riley, so they had several family friends who came to help them.

The doctor then decided to do a CT contrast scan to view the mass more clearly.

“After that, he made me get into a wheelchair, even though I had been walking to campus and driving everywhere, and so I was a bit annoyed,” Taylor said.

The doctors realized that the mass could be a tumor, and that Taylor would need brain surgery. She was transferred via ambulance to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita. Nelson rode in the ambulance with her sister.

“She called me and told me that she had a mass on her brain and I know I was at my friend’s apartment, and I was trying not to cry on the phone or whatever,” said Jackie Morris, sophomore communication major and Taylor’s former roommate. “I ended up just staying with my friends for a while because it was just, I don’t know, you couldn’t believe that she had something on her brain. It was just really weird.”

When the ambulance arrived at Wesley, Nelson said they had already been checked in, so they just got Taylor situated at the hospital. By that time, their mother was already on her way from Texas.

“I don’t remember anything from there (Wichita), except for bits and pieces, but I was pretty okay the whole time, like mentally-wise or emotionally…I remember the doctor telling me that it was either a tumor or an infection, but they weren’t really sure,” Taylor said. “I remember just being confused on how an infection could look like that. I was pretty much fine. I was okay with it all.”

Taylor said she didn’t “freak out” until one of her sisters joked that they might have to shave her head.

But around 5 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 19, Taylor’s body shut down while at Wesley. She was scheduled to have surgery at 10 a.m., but ended up having emergency surgery at 7:15 a.m.

Taylor said that “all of a sudden it was a ‘Code Blue’” in her hospital room. Although she doesn’t remember it happening, Taylor said her heart rate had shot up to 305, and her nurse tried to hit her in the sternum, but she was unresponsive.

“They took me to the nurse station and called the chaplain. After thirteen minutes, her body just quit,” said Paula Taylor, Morgan’s mother. “So they put her on a ventilator. After two hours on the ventilator, she became stable enough to be taken in for an emergency surgery. Surprisingly, she had no brain damage, or heart damage – she was going to be fine. The doctor told us later on if we hadn’t been in the surgical ICU, Morgan wouldn’t be with us today.”

Taylor said they are unsure of what caused the incident – her EKGs, CT scans and sonograms came back normal – but that they are very lucky they got medical help when they did.

“It was the hardest thing seeing her like that just because she was unresponsive,” Nelson said.

On Nov. 25, Taylor moved back to San Antonio, Tex. with her family to get more treatment.

“I almost died on the day of my surgery, and so I think after that I didn’t really have a choice,” Taylor said. “It was kind of decided for me.”

In early December, Taylor found out that the mass was cancerous from a phone call from her primary care doctor before she visited the San Antonio Military Medical Center.

“I didn’t think anything of it,” Taylor said. “I feel dumb thinking about it now, but that was just my attitude then.”

At first, the doctor there told her that the mass on her brain was a grade III mass. It was anaplastic astrocytoma.

“I kind of knew that it would be a higher grade,” Taylor said. “I just had a feeling going into it, so I wasn’t too shocked.”

The doctor told her family that they needed to meet with a neurosurgeon and that she would need another surgery.

“My dad said, ‘All right, could we do it after Christmas?’ They were trying to give me a nice Christmas since Thanksgiving was all crazy,” Taylor said. “But then my mom said, ‘How about tomorrow?’”

So on Dec. 18, Taylor had another surgery, which was a total growth recession, where the medical team attempted to remove the rest of the tumor. She said it was “easy,” and she was out of the hospital two days after the surgery.

But on Dec. 30, the doctor gave the Taylors news that they did not want to hear.

The mass was not a grade III, but a grade IV tumor called glioblastoma multiforme – a more severe tumor.

“I was pretty devastated,” Taylor said. “I was trying to keep my cool, but I was sitting there and I was fighting back tears.”

She said she could tell her father was trying to hold it together during their meeting with the doctor. He already knew about the severity of it because he works in the San Antonio Military Medical, one floor down.

“He was tearing up, and we were all going into the elevator and he just broke down,” Taylor said. “That was the hardest thing I’ve ever seen. It was okay for me, it was just hard to see my parents go through it. That is the hardest thing about this whole thing – I can handle it, but I hate seeing my family and everyone I care about watching me go through it.”

The fact that Taylor had to move back to Texas for the reminder of the school year has been tough for Morris.

“I felt I haven’t been the best friend that I could be because I’m not there,” Morris said. “But she’s had a lot of support from the campus. It’s been hard for me because she was there every day for a year, and now she’s gone.”

Now, Taylor is going through chemotherapy, and enjoys her time at home reading, watching TV and running errands with her mom. She also took a spring break trip to Emporia to visit Nelson. During that time, she was initiated into the sorority Sigma Sigma Sigma.

“This past year has brought me and my three sisters together,” Nelson said. “I would say that we’re all pretty close.”

Taylor plans to move back to Emporia in July, and will continue pursuing her undergraduate degree in the fall of 2014.

“She’s doing very well now,” Nelson said.

Taylor will move into her old apartment with Nelson for the fall semester, and will then move into the sorority house in the spring of 2015.

“I think that we’re all just trying to focus on the positives,” Nelson said. “It’s really easy to get wrapped up in the negatives.”

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