“Just Hang in There”: Brain Tumor Survivor Shares Hope in Coloring Pages

May 21, 2020

After nearly two years of unexplained and increasingly painful migraines, Molly had enough. In August 2017, as she began her senior year of high school, she visited her pediatrician in hopes of finding the root cause of her migraines. But even after tweaking her diet and ruling out allergies, the headaches persisted.

As a last resort, Molly’s doctor ordered an MRI. The results showed something Molly and her family never expected: There was a golf ball-sized benign tumor on her brain stem.

“I honestly didn’t know a single person who’d had a brain tumor and I didn’t know much about what was to happen to me,” Molly says.

As Molly and her parents visited different specialists in their community in downstate Illinois, it became increasingly clear that it was crucial to find a highly skilled neurosurgeon—and fast. The tumor was pinching Molly’s brain ventricles closed, causing fluid to press her brain against her skull. She needed emergency surgery to relieve the pressure.

“All signs pointed to Lurie Children’s,” Molly says. Lurie Children’s Division of Neurosurgery is one of the busiest in North America, performing approximately 1,000 surgeries a year. U.S.News & World Report has ranked Lurie Children’s as 11th in the nation for pediatric neurology and neurosurgery.

Emergency Surgery and Holistic Healing

The day Molly arrived at Lurie Children’s, she underwent emergency surgery performed by Dr. Arthur J. DiPatri, an attending neurosurgeon. In the eight-hour operation, Dr. DiPatri removed as much of the brain tumor as possible, clearing the way for brain fluid to move and relieve the pressure in Molly’s skull.  

For the next three weeks, Molly recovered at Lurie Children’s. Because the tumor had been on her cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls the ability to walk, she worked with physical therapists to improve her balance and coordination. To keep up with her schoolwork, she worked with tutors from Lurie Children’s Education Liaison Program. She also enjoyed visits from a therapy dog in her room. “Everybody around me was always super nice and came to check in on me often.”

Colors of Hope

During recovery, Molly found comfort in creating her own art—a hobby she continues to enjoy today. “In the hospital I had lots of coloring books, and I recently discovered an art app on my computer so I can make my own coloring pages.”

For people spending more time than usual at home during the pandemic, she hopes people turn to her coloring pages as a source of distraction and a way to cope. “Getting your mind off the situation is the best bet,” she says.

After surgery, Molly finished out her senior year alongside her friends and classmates. She recently earned her associate’s degree in psychology from Parkland College and will begin working toward her Master’s Degree at Eastern Illinois University this fall to become a guidance counselor.

Every six months Molly visits Lurie Children’s ensure the tumor is not growing back—and every day, she says she gives thanks for the team there who saved her life. “I will forever be grateful for Dr. DiPatri and his team, as well as the nurses who kept me healthy and upbeat throughout my recovery. Without them, I don’t think I would be where I am today.”

To download Molly’s coloring pages, click here.

Learn more about Lurie Children's Division of Neurosurgery.