Meet Ella, Age 18, Ewing Sarcoma, Survivor
My name is Ella Steubing, I am a triplet, along with my brother Jack and my sister Kate. We do everything together and they have made such an impact on my life. They, along with my parents, were instrumental in getting me through this phase of my life.
August 21, 2017, was the worst day of my life. That was the day of the ‘Great American Eclipse’, the first contiguous solar eclipse across the mainland United States since 1918. It was also the date I thought was going to be my first day of 8th grade. I never (physically) attended a day of 8th grade, however. Two weeks previous to August 21st, I started to experience severe pains in my back. After a couple of ER visits, including x-rays and CAT scans, the doctors could not find the source of the pain. On what was supposed to be the first day of 8th grade, I woke up experiencing numbness in my legs and could not walk. My parents literally had to carry me into my pediatrician’s office. Dr G (as we called him since we were four years old), recognized the severity of my symptoms, and called an ambulance...which rushed me to Children's Hospital in Plano. An MRI was performed, and the results showed a large mass on my spinal cord. At this point, they transferred me by ambulance to Children's Medical - Dallas. They told us that this was an emergency situation which really worried us all. My mom rode with me (followed closely by my dad) and we drove down to Dallas during rush hour with the sirens running. It was very surreal.
When we arrived at the hospital, they provided us with more details: There was a very large mass on my spine that had compressed my spinal cord to the point that it prevented the electrical 'stimuli' from reaching below my waist. It was only a matter of hours before the numbness to my legs became permanent. They scheduled me for surgery that night at 10:30pm, a surgery which took 3 1/2 hours. At 2:00am, the surgeon came out and told my parents that he was able to extract a large chunk of the mass but was not able to get all of it because it was too close to the spinal cord. He was still unsure if I would ever regain feeling below my waist. On top of it, he confirmed that it was a malignant tumor.
We found out that the form of cancer I had was called ‘Ewing’s Sarcoma’ and the treatment plan would take about a year. They started me on physical therapy two days after my surgery and it was excruciating, but after every day my legs got more feeling and a little bit stronger. Chemotherapy and radiation were very hard for me because I was a thirteen-year old girl and losing all of my hair as a teenager was traumatizing. During this time, I was able to keep up with my studies at home and at the hospital and was able to attend 8th grade graduation with my classmates.
This experience made me realize that I want to become a pediatric oncology nurse one day, and I want to be a positive, uplifting impact to my patients the same way my nurses were for me. The nurses really helped me get through this ordeal. I want to help children because I can empathize with what they are going through, and I can help them at their lowest point. It was such a hard thing to overcome, but I am physically stronger and better than ever, and I have been in remission for three years. My family and friends have been my support system, and I could not have asked for more from them.