Mallory Casperson is an experienced scientist. She is a salsa dancer. She is a creative writer. And now she’s the founder and CEO of Lacuna Loft – an innovative collection of resources, articles, and products dedicated to helping young people living with long-term illness and their caregivers.
Three months after her mother passed away from a brain tumor, Mallory’s own scar story unfolded.
Told in her own words:
Leading up to my scar…
- I think I have to openly admit that there is more than one scar story found here. In March 2009 my mother was diagnosed with a Grade IV Glioblastoma Multiforme. Before starting her chemotherapy treatments, and after her initial surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, she had a port installed in her chest. That port was a very outward sign, on the thin frame of my mother, that cancer had infiltrated our household for the first time. She passed away in December 2010, just three months before my scar arrived.
- In the years leading up to my own cancer diagnosis, I was a busy graduate student. Days, evenings, and weekends were all spent taking classes and doing research. I spent long hours in a basement lab studying the growth of cracks in metals at high temperature and even longer hours figuring out how to scheme, dream, formulate, and communicate this research with those around me.
- I spent other parts of my day dreaming of travel. As an undergrad, I studied abroad for a year and spent another 6 months on top of that overseas. I wanted to live and breathe another language and culture…and not just for a day or a month, but for years.
- Writing, for me, had always been an outlet. As my mother’s scar continued to infiltrate my existence, writing became more and more painful and so I reached for my notebook less and less. I filled my head with television and movies, work, running, and late nights out dancing. I could salsa dance my woes away for hours.
- Though life in graduate school can feel quite isolating at times, I continued hanging out with a few, good friends. Through one of them, I started taking a salsa class and I met this fantastic guy. He was cute and nerdy, athletic and loved to cook. And when my life crumbled around me, as my mother’s health declined and I rode the waters through my own cancer diagnosis, he was always there.
How my scar changed my life…
- I have come to realize, that as part of this story I cannot omit the month before I received my port; that object which created my scar. Before that port, some of the chemo drugs burned intensely when “pushed” (injected into my arm). Another one burned so much that they would allow it to infuse very slowly, extending my time spent in chemo. My second round of chemo lasted 11 hours. One of the veins in my forearm was permanently damaged during one of these first two rounds of chemo and ached for months afterwards. The port was then implanted on the right hand side of my chest. It changed my life and the way I experienced all of my following chemotherapy treatments.
- When chemo was over, I waited the six week period of time called for in the clinical trial I was a part of, had my last round of scans, and then had them remove the port. The incision, along with the rest of my body, began the long healing process. Being a young adult cancer patient and survivor is an interesting journey. My mother’s death and my scar, bringing to light the life and death journey that I was a part of, was difficult for my peers to understand and they shied away from it. I hid the scar from my work, pushing on and being as normal and full of energy as possible, and from my friends.
- My own cancer and my mother’s, left me with some depression and anxiety. Leaving the house, and my two pups alone in it, took significant extra time as I checked and rechecked appliances, lights, and all potential fire hazards. I reveled in returning back to work but tired quickly and felt emotionally exhausted by the end of each day. I learned quickly that my “push through and just do it” mentality was not going to work with this new scar of mine regardless of how much I had to accomplish each day in my graduate program and research. I did not return to the late nights that salsa dancing required though I slowly began to run again and spend more time outside. Every three months, I went through CT scans and received official confirmation that my disease had not returned…yet I felt very much still in recovery. The world had become a very frightening place.
- After establishing a work/life balance that quieted some of my anxiety and left me feeling less tired and worn down, I fought through another two years of my graduate program… and finally left. Working with PhDs at NASA over the summer was something I could do quite well…my research was solid and excited people other than just myself. People wanted to work with me and I wanted to work with them…but pushing through an academic work load to finish my PhD just wasn’t working right now. While offers to work were extended at various places, my husband had a year and a half left in his own PhD program. We had been to hell and back, and we wanted to stay together, living in the same place. I would need to explore some other options.
- Over time the incision on my chest has begun to fade, though it is still quite predominant and visible. After almost a year of blogging about the weekly comings and goings of my household, I came to the realization that I could make a difference with my writing. In August 2013, started a magazine and e-Commerce site called Lacuna Loft. Lacuna Loft is geared towards young adults dealing with cancer or long term illness, either as patients or caregivers. My scar is part of the story behind my voice on Lacuna Loft…no longer something that I need to try and overcome; it is the very thing which has led me to this brand new place.
Mallory is the Founder and CEO of a magazine and e-commerce site for young adults dealing with cancer or long term illness, as either patients or caregivers, called Lacuna Loft. She served as one of the primary caregivers for her mother undergoing treatments for a brain tumor just months before receiving her own diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She has her MS and half of a PhD in Aerospace Engineering. Mallory sees the beauty of everyday life and strives to help others find it too, even in crisis. Follow Lacuna Loft on facebook, twitter, pinterest, and instagram!
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