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Megan Stieg

MyLifeLine Stories of Inspiration and Hope

Stories Connect Our Community
Whether you’re a newly diagnosed cancer patient, caregiver, or loved one, discover insights that inspire through shared wisdom that comes from having ‘been there.’

My Story

Last updated: Apr 14 2015

A Storm is Brewing
When did it all start? Nobody really knows. But what we do know is that symptoms started sometime after Thanksgiving but before Christmas of 2010. I started to have what I thought were migraines, they gradually got worse and worse and eventually led to dizziness and vomiting. I was to a point that I was not able to get out of bed or interact with my family. The days that I actually made it into work, I would have to often lie on the ground until the pain would ease. Once I even went to urgent care during lunch, but they said I just had a sinus infection. After speaking to my family doctor regarding the migraines, it was recommended to see a neurologist and this is when I met Dr. Ginsburg.

I took to Dr. Ginsburg right away, I liked that he didn’t come into the patient room with a laptop or any modern day techy gadgets, yet instead Ginsburg came with a simple notepad and an assault of questions, he kept it old school. Per the recommendations of Ginsburg, James escorted me to MRI on January 25. I felt okay that day, but later that night we knew something was wrong when we noticed Ginsburg had multiple calls into us. This was a conversation that wasn’t supposed to happen for several more days. After finally connected with Ginsburg that night, he informed us that he noticed some swelling on the right side of the brain, and he was concerned with a risk of seizures. He sent James to the pharmacy that night to obtain a steroid to control the swelling. We planned it out to meet with Ginsburg Thursday to discuss the details of the MRI film, although the next morning, the pressure in my head was so bad that vomiting became uncontrollable. It was time to go to E.R.

The First Hardest Day Ever

On a threshold scale of 1 to 10, that morning the pain was at least a 20. Once I was admitted to ER they gave me (2) shots of morphine to reduce the pain to about an 11, still way above any tolerable level of pain. Ginsburg, who was scheduled to be off that day, shortly made his appearance in the ER. Ginsburg came that day with some unwelcoming news, the type of news that can only be delivered in person. He had carefully explained that the swelling that he described over the phone the previous night, was actually due to a large tissue mass or tumor on the right side of my brain and that the swelling was more than just slight and actually encompassed approximately 50% of the right hemisphere. Quickly recognizing that my life’s dreams were being stripped from me, the information started to become filtered out - partly due a natural defense mechanism but mostly due to the excruciating pain of an 11. After (2) more shots of some other much stronger narcotic, I was knocked out cold.

While I was out, Ginsburg reviewed the MRI film with James; it was here that Ginsburg explained that the tumor looked to be very aggressive and that some surgery would be required. The devastating news brought James to his knees as his heart dropped into the depths of his stomach. In attempt to sputter out a few words between all the tears, James started to make plans for the kids and bring in reinforcements. After a call back home, James contacted my sister and requested that she jump the first flight from Detroit. While waiting to be admitted, it was explained that they would likely start by performing a biopsy of the tumor. This would be accomplished by a long syringe in through the skull and into the brain mass for sampling. A sample would determine the proper procedure for the upcoming days, although then came a small disclaimer; the Neurosurgeon would be in a few hours to make the final decision which may overrule any of this discussion.

Within a couple of hours I was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), with several of doctors and nurses surrounding me. As we waited for Dr. Shogun to arrive, the staff rambled on how he was one of the best in the nation, and is often noted in major medical journals/magazines. When Shogun arrived, I was still knocked out and completely unresponsive. This was very concerning to him as he felt my condition was elevated to life threatening; he decided that emergency surgery would be required that very night. James and the ICU staff tried desperately to wake me up, but no response could be gained. At this point, the nursing staff recommended that James have my parents come to town, my state was critical. After a shot to reverse the narcotics, I finally began to respond to the staff, so Shogun decided that the surgery could wait until the next day. Postponing the surgery was huge as it allowed them to run another MRI scan for computer assisted surgery versus depending on mere skills of the human hand. It wasn’t until this point in time, when James learned the nature of the swelling and that surgery was required to save my life.

Shogun explained that the location of the tumor was at the back of the right hemisphere of my brain. This location was a very serious and high risk area, since this is the very part of the brain that controls the entire left side of your body’s motor skills. He explained that the common results consisted of impaired speech, partial paralyzation of the left side, memory loss, change in personality and very rarely even death. He encouraged us that the benefits outweighed the risks, and that there wasn’t much of a choice in the matter. He explained precisely how they would cut into my skull and remove as much of the tumor as possible without risking getting to close to active brain cells. The surgery may last anywhere from 2 to 11 hours depending on how much they could potentially remove. After a flood of tears and kisses from James, it was time to be wheeled through those big scary O.R. doors.

As my family waited nearby, James expressed the anxiety of every passing nurse and doctor. It became an element of time, the longer I was in O.R., the more tissue must be being removed (at least that was their logic for coping). After approximately 6 hours of surgery, Shogun came out to greet the family. He explained that they removed as much as they could without getting too aggressive, although the remainder would need to be addressed through radiation or chemotherapy. With that said, the surgery was a success as I did not suffer from any major side effects.

Rock Bottom

Surgery went well, I was recovering quickly and after four long days, the preliminary pathology report came in. As we sat in the room, some of us holding hands, Shogun delivered the news. Preliminary pathology had determined that the tumor was a high level grade IV - the most aggressive type of cancer. He informed us that there was no cure and that this would eventually take my life. We were just starting to build ourselves up, but this one was a devastating knock out blow. This was even harder news than finding out I had a tumor in the first place. The tissue still needed to be tested further by a pathologist and the University of Colorado. Those test results were slightly better. My tumor is actually grade III glioma. I\'ll take any upgrade I can get!

After my surgery, I went through 6 weeks of radiation and chemotherapy. It about destroyed me. The effects fo chemo and radiation really took it\'s toll. At one point I was sure I was dying and ended up back in the hospital in a delusional state. Once radiation was over and they weaned me off the high levels of steriods I had been on, I started to feel a lot better. I still had chemo treatments once a month, but now I was determined to LIVE!

The Past Three Years
For three years my tumor didn\'t really change. Every MRI looked good. So good in fact, that my doctor thought I could go a little longer between scans. I had a scan in July of last year. My next one wasn\'t suppose to be until this week. On December 23rd, I had a seizure when I was home in Michigan. When I returned to Colorado I immediately set an appointment for a new MRI. What it showed is what I feared most. My tumor has grown again.

After James and I had a tear-filled night, we were ready to set out to find some answers as to how we should move forward with treatment. The University of Colorado, Duke Medical Center and UCLA were all instramental in helping us make a decision. I need surgery. Everywhere we went recommended it because the tumor could grow to be inoperable at some point. We also needed a plan for post-op. The choices were chemo again or trying to find a trial study that I\'m qualified for. While having a grade III tumor seems like it\'s better than a grade IV, it limits you as to what studies you qualify for. We found that out at Duke. The good news is UCLA has an immunotherapy trial I\'m qualified to be in and an amazing neurosurgeon to operate on my tumor! Duke highly recommended this type of trial if I was qualified. They feel that there are great results coming out of these types of trials.

Next week begins the next chapter of my cancer journey. I\'m heading out to LA for surgery and treatment. This will be a long process, starting with 3 weeks in LA for tests, surgery and recovery. That\'s a long time to be away from my boys! Post surgery, I will need to travel to LA for a week every other month for 10 months of treatment. I will be using this journal to update everyone about my treatment and progress. We are also using this site as a way for people to donate toward my treatment. Please feel free to donate what you can under the \'Giving Angels\' button.

One last thing, everyone and I mean everyone has been telling me how strong I am. I\'m not sure I really have a choice in the matter. I think we have to take what we\'re given and do our best to survive. Right? Oh, and when possible try to keep positive. The reality is that I\'m being given another chance to live, not everyone in my situation gets that chance. So I\'m just going to keep fighting and maybe one day I\'ll be cured!

GOODBYE FOR NOW Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. - Soren Kierkegaard Megan Anne Stieg, loving mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin and friend to many, died April 09, 2015. Megan was 37. She taught us how to have faith, fight, enjoy the present moment and to never give up on our dreams. Words cannot express how much she will be missed by her friends and family for her sense of humor, and her love of family. The lights of Megan's life were her two sons, Parker and Keaton, who, like Megan, are brilliantly creative and overly abundant with life. Megan was born April 14, 1977 in Detroit, Michigan. Megan grew up in a neighborhood known as Old Rosedale Gardens in Livonia, Michigan. She graduated from Franklin High School in Livonia in 1995, earned an Associate Degree from Schoolcraft College and studied Graphic Design at Wayne State University. Megan moved to Colorado in 2007. Megan enjoyed hobbies that included drawing, painting, music, yoga and just spending time laughing with her boys. Megan married James Stieg in 2003, and their first son, Parker, was born September 29, 2006. Keaton was born almost three years later on July 06, 2009. Megan was diagnosed with Bain Cancer in 2011 and for over four years Megan continued to fight brain cancer. Her fight involved cross country trips, multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy. Megan's outlook always remained positive and did not accept her fate without an epic battle. Megan leaves behind her sons, Parker and Keaton; her husband, James Stieg; her parents, Barbara and Ronald Marolla; siblings: Sheila Myers (husband Josh) and Edward Marolla; nephews, Jude, Will and Lucas: and many aunts, uncles, cousins, her "core 4" and many lifelong friends. A funeral Mass is scheduled for Friday, April 17, 2015 at Ward Church in Northville, MI at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, Megan's family asks that contributions be made to a college education fund established for Megan's sons, Parker and Keaton or towards St. Jude Childrens Research Hospital for cancer research.

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