16 year old brain cancer survivor Aloysius

What is your name? How old are you? Where are you from?

Aloysius Nydegger, 31 years old.

What’s your diagnosis?

Oligodendroglioma, Grade II.

How and when did you find out about your diagnosis?

When I was 16 years old I was told the ‘spot’ on my brain was water. It wasn’t, and fifteen years later I passed out and got a scan and a craniotomy, cancer.

What has the journey through cancer taught you?

That life can change in a blink of an eye, and you have no control over it. It doesn’t punish belittle, or judge by race, sexual orientation, gender identity, or creed.  

What has changed in your life since your cancer diagnosis?

Well, I can’t walk normally anymore. Cancer claimed my ability to walk correctly and coming to terms with that has been almost as big of a journey as my cancer is. Things can’t just ‘go back to normal’ because my ‘normal’ changes often.

brain cancer survivor companion through cancer journey

This is Pepsi, he’s my medical companion bear. Been with me for every surgery and cancer treatment.

What is your favorite motto in life?

Be who you are, hold yourself accountable, and enjoy what life can bring you.

What do you do to relax?

Watch TV shows that I can relate to the most. ER is a big one for me. The two characters that stuck out the most for me were Mark Greene and Ray Barnett.

What are some of your personal rules?

The biggest one is don’t treat others badly if you don’t want to be treated that way, and if you like mistreatment, consider being better to them than yourself.

What defines you as a person?

That’s hard, but I think what defines a person is how they treat others. You are, at the end of the day, your actions. Can you look back and smile at your day’s work, or do you feel like you did wrong by someone? Tomorrow and today are gifts we have to be better than yesterday.

Brain radiation mask

The grey is for brain cancer. Something I have. The lavender is for all cancers, and the flowers are just for decoration. I spent a lot of time thinking about what I was going to do with it. The idea to paint it came naturally to me as I do art to express myself. It has a special meaning to me that life moves on and to keep on working for my goals.

What keeps you going every day?

My best friend. He’s always been there, and the only person I could tell anything to. He’s always been there for me when I needed him, even when he didn’t feel good. He’s my rock.

What personal goal would you like to achieve next?

I want to go to college and go into the medical or therapy field. Maybe working as a PT, maybe an oncologist counselor, or working on mental health for amputees and the like.

How do you cope when things get hard?

I cry. I stay home, I let it out. I watch Lord of the Rings, ER, or something that will make me start going. I express myself in my safe place. 

What lesson was hardest for you to learn?

That life doesn’t dish out justice the same way it dishes out hard lessons. Bad things happen to good people, and good things happen to bad people. That’s just how things are. Don’t get hung up on who deserves what, focus on what drives you and makes you happy.

And this is what you absolutely have to know about me too

I don’t give up. I cry, I have a bit of a ‘feel sorry for myself’ party and then I get up and go. My life might be far too short to sweat about the small stuff, and I won’t let the loss of function ruin the life I’ve worked hard to build for myself.