“We have a pretty small family; cancer took everyone,” says Amy Frondoso with a nervous laugh. Her family has a long history of cancer- her mother had pancreatic cancer, her grandfather had lung cancer, and her aunt had lymphoma, and a few years ago she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Amy was also recently diagnosed with and underwent surgery for a brain tumor, but this is not her defining quality. Amy is a mother of two daughters, a swimmer, yoga practitioner, and avid reader. She is a Baltimore native, raised by her grandparents with two siblings.
In early 2011, she had a sudden “pop” of pain in her head followed by a terrible headache. The pain worsened and she eventually blacked out at a grocery store. On her way back home, she brushed it off as a migraine, but the pain would not go away. Amy eventually went to the hospital, and had a lumbar puncture, a CAT scan and an MRI. It was found that she had a brain hemorrhage which had caused the pain and her collapse. At the same time, the MRI showed that she had a pituitary tumor that was unrelated to the hemorrhage. When she was told that she had a tumor, she was very worried that it was cancerous. However, she tried to remain realistic and positive. While she was upset, saddened, and frightened, she was not shocked by the news of the tumor because of her family history. “When I was first diagnosed with cancer, there was no initial shock, because I knew that cancer ran in my family,” she remembers. Amy tried to approach her new diagnosis with the same positive philosophy by which she lives her life. She recalls that her family members rarely had a positive attitude and that they deteriorated very rapidly from their disease; she believes that “if they had a more positive attitude, they would have done better.”
When she fought thyroid cancer, Amy was able to remain very strong because she never had visible symptoms, and did not deteriorate or suffer much pain. But with the pituitary tumor and the hemorrhage, her daughters could see for the first time a vulnerable side to her, and this frightened them. They rallied around her with love and support, and Amy says that the support she found in her family meant the whole world to her. She fondly recalls that “My daughters became my mothers.” At Hopkins, she was referred to Dr. Quinones, whom she had already learned a great deal about. She recalled watching an inspiring PBS show about Doctor Quinones and telling herself that she would love to meet him. Little did she know that she was about to become his patient.
In February 2011, Dr. Q was able to resect her tumor and Amy was relieved to learn that it was non-cancerous. When asked if she had any regrets, or ever considered seeking another opinion, she said: “No, Hopkins and Dr. Q have been so wonderful. He is that light that you see at the end of the tunnel, but also that light that was with you throughout the tunnel.” Her advice to all brain tumor and cancer patients in general is to always keep a positive attitude, “Put some laughter in your life, be around your family and friends, and just make the situation light.”
Amy is also a great advocate of the Reiki Healing program. She describes it as a healing energy that you acquire through a form of meditation. As a cancer patient, she used to go to Reiki circles to re-energize her body. She says, “It removes pain, help you relax and stay positive.” She is now training to become a certified Reiki practitioner. Amy and her daughters have recently committed to run the Baltimore half-marathon with Dr. Q to support brain cancer research. Amy and her family are powerful reminders of what can be accomplished with love of life, support of family, and a positive attitude towards our hurdles.