College Student Overcomes Pediatric Disease and Pushes on With Life

After visiting different college campuses and weighing her options, Jessica Glenn chose Bowling Green State University to continue her education in the fall of 2009. The Oakwood Village native couldn’t wait to go away to school, but it wasn’t because she wanted her freedom or to get away from her family. She’s really close with her parents and sister, Emily — that’s the part of going away that was actually going to bother her.

A self-proclaimed nerd, she was excited to be immersed in education. “I just love school. I couldn’t wait to take classes and learn so many new things,” says Miss Glenn.

The first two years flew by for the accounting and finance major. In 2011, towards the end of her sophomore year, the big toe on her right foot went numb. A few days later her right heel went numb too. The numbness didn’t go away and soon it began to travel up her leg. “My leg and foot tingled like they were asleep. I was limping because of the sensation and couldn’t feel my foot,” remembers Miss Glenn.

Severe headaches in the back of her head and shooting pain down her right arm made her miserable. She wasn’t able to do simple tasks like texting her friends and family.

When Miss Glenn finished the semester and moved back home for the summer, she made an appointment at Cleveland Clinic to see what was causing her health issues. Following the appointment, she was set up with a magnetic resonance imaging test, also known as an MRI.

The MRI showed that Miss Glenn had a tumor at the base of her brain and her spine was riddled with tumors. She was immediately admitted to the hospital for additional testing, including a biopsy of the tumors. “It was super scary waiting for the results. The symptoms began in my other leg too. I wasn’t able to walk. I just wanted to know what was causing everything,” remembers Miss Glenn.

At the age of 20, Miss Glenn was diagnosed with primitive neuroectodermal tumors (PNET) — aggressive tumors that tend to attach to parts of the brain that control movement, thought and sensation. “PNET typically affects children and young adults. It doesn’t seem to have any identifiable risk factors, and isn’t genetic,” explains Tanya Tekautz, MD, a pediatric neuro-oncologist at Cleveland Clinic Children's.

“Dr. T was amazing. She was always up front with me and explained everything so well.”

Because of her diagnosis, Miss Glenn had to skip the next school year to concentrate on her health. She had a long road ahead of her in pediatric oncology at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. The next step in her journey was surgery to remove the tumors. After surgery, she met Dr. Tekautz, who would be with her for the rest of her journey at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. “Dr. T was amazing. She was always up front with me and explained everything so well,” says Miss Glenn.

Radiation to her brain and spine was the next step. She received radiation treatments five days a week for six weeks. “Radiation caused me to lose my hair. It was difficult at first, but then I picked out pretty wigs to wear. That helped me feel a lot better,” says Miss Glenn.

“Jessica was able to go home in August and return for her chemotherapy treatments. She’d stay at Cleveland Clinic Children’s five days a week every four weeks for six months. The course of care was really tough on Jessica, but she was always positive. She had tremendous support from her family, friends and members of her church who helped to keep her motivated,” says Dr. Tekautz.

While in the hospital and after she was released, Miss Glenn had physical therapy to relearn to walk and use her hands — most things people take for granted.

In January 2012, Miss Glenn completed her journey at Cleveland Clinic Children’s and has been in remission ever since, only going back for routine check-ups.

She returned to Bowling Green and finished her accounting degree, then stayed on to receive her master’s degree in accounting; she now works in accounting for a real estate firm. She’s a typical 26-year-old who loves to spend time in downtown Cleveland with friends and cheer on her favorite team — the Cavs. Miss Glenn gives “major thanks to God” for helping her through her illness.

“Jessica has a Hollywood smile and is beautiful inside and out. Her amazing personality is infectious. Even through difficult times, she is always positive, pleasant and polite. She’s the kind of person that makes the world a better place,” says Dr. Tekautz. “Seeing her hit her five-year mark of being cancer free is amazing; those victories are so sweet.”

Related Institutes: Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, Neurological Institute
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