Zi’Tavia Freemans Story: Surviving Childhood Brain Stem Glioma
Tue, 09/20/2016 - 2:43pm Douglas1
Kristen Kitchens Enterprise Staff Writer
Although she is only 18 years old, Zi’Tavia has faced many battles throughout her life that most people will never have to go through. Zi’Tavia, daughter of Edward and Shakina Freeman, is fighting a type of pediatric cancer known as Childhood Brain Stem Gloma, which is a central nervous system tumor that begins when normal cells in the brain stem change and grow uncontrollably. Despite her battle, Zi’Tavia has never complained and has always been full of love and happiness.
In 2001 and at the young age of three, Zi’Tavia’s parents noticed that she was having problems with her balance, which caused her to fall frequently and she was having severe vomiting.
Zi’Tavia’s family hoped and prayed that her vomiting and problems with balance were not cancer related, but unfortunately, they were. The family discovered that not only did Zi’Tavia have a brain tumor; the tumor (which was around the size of a golf ball) was inoperable.
“It was terrible. We were shocked and hurt and we just didn’t even know what to think. The doctor’s asked us where she wanted to spend her last few days. It got that bad. I remember the feeling well,” Shakina stated.
Zi’Tavia was sent to Wolfson Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, where she had to endure radiation treatments. “We were told that there was a strong possibly that she would only have a few years to live and we were told she probably would never walk again. It was something no mother or anyone wants to hear, especially about their child and especially to know that she is sitting with me here today and is living with it, it’s a miracle,” Shakina said.
According to her mother, until a cure is discovered, doctors will not be able to completely kill the tumor, but radiation has helped with shrinking the size of the tumor.
From several years Zi’Tavia continued to defy the odds of living with the brain tumor.
In 2014 and at the age of 16, Zi’Tavias family became concerned when she began to have balance issues again. Zi’Tavia was then informed by her doctors that her tumor had started back growing rapidly.
“This took a big toll on Zi’Tavia. When she was first diagnosed she was a baby, but when the tumor began growing she actually understood what was happening. She cried all the way back from the doctor’s appointment that day,” Shakina said.
Shakina stated that on top undergoing another round of chemo, Zi’Tavia was also battling anxiety attacks and severe weight loss through the stress of the tumor. “It was awful, nothing can prepare you for that.”
Zi’Tavia’s chemo also caused a problem when she got extremely sick from the particular type that she was undergoing. The doctor’s put her through a new round of chemo, which she responded better to.
“When she was undergoing chemo, she would always want me to do her make up and dress her up so she could feel pretty. She was always beautiful, she just loved the make up and getting dolled up. She always smiled. Even now, when I am crying she laughs at me and tells me to stop just because we have made it to where we are now!” Shakina tearfully stated.
Zi’Tavia had an MRI last month and he results revealed that the tumor is currently stable. She is currently considering undergoing surgery on her wrist, which will allow her to straighten out her left hand fully.
“I don’t really want her to do it, but she is set on it. She has gone through so many surgeries and just a lot overall. It’s a pretty simple procedure, but I think she is perfect now,” Shakina said.
“I really want to do it,” Zi’Tavia quietly said with a smile.
Shakina also wanted to give a huge thank you to the Childhood Cancer Awareness Group of Coffee County (CCAGCC) and her Pastor Rueben Speight for helping them through Zi’Tavia’s cancer battle. She stated, “I wouldn’t have gotten through this without the group or my pastor. The CCAGCC has been such a blessing to us. They don’t see color; they see what you’re going through. When I first met Lisa [Aldridge] she acted like she had known me for years.
My church family at Greater Destiny and our pastor were there for me so much too. They are like our family and we owe them so much.”
Zi’Tavia and her mother are also currently helping out other young girls with cancer who are undergoing chemo by giving them gift bags. The gift bags contain several items for the children including personalized chap stick that says, “Fight like a Girl”. “We just want these little girls to feel special,” Shakina stated
Zi’Tavia is now eighteen years old and is on track to graduate at Coffee High School next May and wants to be a Child Life Specialist. During the time of the interview, Zi’Tavia was set to take her learners license test the following week and couldn’t have been more excited.
“I want a pink doodle bug!” she stated.
“She has wanted that car for so long. That’s all she talks about!” Shakina said with a laugh.
Zi’Tavia continues to see a doctor every three months and her family continues to pray that there will someday be a cure.
Shakina stated, “She amazes me all of the time. She has smiled throughout all of this and will continue to smile as we continue to pray because that’s the type of person she is.”
See page 5A in the Wednesday, September 21, 2016 edition of The Douglas Enterprise