My name is Lilly Benefiel. I was a typical young adult living life to the fullest. On March 8, 2013 that all changed. I was with a friend when we were in a minor car accident. The EMT asked us to get up from the curb and walk to the ambulance so he could give us a quick check to make sure everything was okay. My friend jumped up and headed towards the ambulance. I got up and just fell over. The EMT said “get in, you are going with us to the hospital”.
I was in a small hospital in Dallas for three days until my parents got me moved to MD Anderson. MDA was overwhelming and I received excellent care. It was an overwhelming visit and one I will never forget. On April 1st (yes April fool’s day) I had my craniotomy and the surgeon was able to remove about 96% of the tumor. The pathology came back. I was diagnosed with a grade 3 oglioastrocytoma. The statistics were starling; I would need to learn to survive living the odds.
My family and I quickly learned what it was like to live 200 miles from a center of excellence. We had to travel two to three times a month. It was a burden. In the months that followed, I underwent chemotherapy and was fortunate to not have to do radiation. An excellent care team makes the journey easier and more understandable.
To say my journey has been easy would not be truthful. I was hit with the news at a time in my life where the future was endless and I was totally devastated. I was mad and just knew I was going to die soon. There were times when everyone around me thought I was going crazy. No one should ever have to live a terminal life. It honestly took me a year and a few months to accept that this was my new reality. Although I struggle to work, I was able to start a small antique shop. With the help of my family, we were able to start this wonderful nonprofit to help others far into the future.
I now have been living three years with a high grade glioma and thankfully have no signs of recurrence. It is a guarded blessing and every day is a gift. I will never get used to going in for my follow ups and still become anxious for obvious reasons, but each day I grow stronger and stronger as I live life to its fullest.