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As a high school senior, Danica Whitfield was just weeks from graduation.
Recently accepted to Michigan State University, Danica was returning from a trip with her family. Then, something went terribly wrong.
She had a seizure on the plane and after being rushed to the ER, doctors found something that would radically change her life. A brain tumor, an oligodendroglioma threatened her future college plans and her life.
"I remember that moment when they came into the room to tell me what they found. My mom freaked out," said Danica. "I was thinking, 'Did you just come into the wrong room?'"
It was not a mistake. Moreover, neither was finding the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center. After meeting the team, this brave, 17 year-old from Bloomfield Hills would undergo brain surgery just one day after graduating high school. Oral chemotherapy and radiation followed as she began her classes at MSU in the fall. Although setbacks with her health including more seizures forced her to leave school after her first semester, Danica credits her positive attitude and support of her mom and the entire team at the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center for helping her persevere throughout this difficult disease and treatment process.
"Lisa Scarpace is one of my best friends. And so many of the people there have made my life a more positive experience. (A brain tumor) is something you have to deal with. You can't ignore it. They were there for me whenever I would need it. I could call someone at any time and they were always available."
After Danica's brain tumor returned a second time, the team at the Hermelin Brain Tumor Center performed another surgery and put her on a clinical trial chemotherapy drug called Avastin. Her treatments would help destroy the tumor, but it also took a toll on her overall health. At one point, she was down to 57 pounds and doctors had to stop treatment.
Although the outlook seemed grim, her mom and her entire support team gave her the one thing that helped her through.
Today, three years after her last treatment, Danica has recovered. She is finishing her studies at Kaplan College and "interested in nutritional sciences. I could see myself working with kids."
MRI's have shown the tumor to be gone and she is excited to move on with a life after cancer.