WOMEN OF OUR COMMUNITY
NAME: Morgan Skinner
NEIGHBORHOOD: Texarkana, Arkansas
FAMILY: Married to Lance Skinner with two children; Dillon and Beauman
OCCUPATION: Case Manager at Taylor King Law
FAVORITE FOOD: Sushi and Soup
FAVORITE COLOR: Green
TEA OR COFFEE? Coffee
FAVORITE BOOK: "Redeeming Love" by Francine Rivers
FAVORITE HOBBY: Adventure seeking, traveling to experience the world's history
FAVORITE MOVIE: "Shooter" or "The Best of Me"
FAVORITE HOLIDAY: Christmas
FAVORITE QUOTE: "Meet your Fears with Faith" -- Max Lucado
By KATIE STONE | contributing writer
Morgan Skinner did not have a typical life during her teen years in Texarkana. She started getting headaches when she was 15 years old. She didn't think anything of it at first, but as the days went by her headaches never subsided.
The daily pain brought her to tears, even disturbing her sleep. Morgan's parents were unsure what to do for her. They took her to the doctor when over-the-counter pain medication proved ineffective.
Morgan began having ear pain along with the headaches and then her vision began to blur. About 6 months after the headaches started, Morgan's parents found themselves begging a physician for an MRI of their daughter's head.
"I couldn't breathe out of my one side of my nose anymore, and then I noticed that I was having trouble opening my mouth," Morgan said. "The doctor's tried to say that I was sleep-deprived and that I was depressed. They told my mom to take me to a therapist."
Her mom wouldn't give up.
"She told them that she would take me to a therapist if they would do an MRI of my head," Morgan said.
The physician's agreed to do the MRI. Originally schedule for a few weeks out, the scan was completed the next day after insistence from her dad.
The results: cancer.
Morgan was diagnosed with Stage 4 nasopharyngeal carcinoma. She had a mass in her nasal cavity that measured 6 centimeters by 5 centimeters. The mass had broken the base of her skull and infringed on her jawbone. In less than one week, Morgan went from a 15-year-old with constant headaches to a cancer survivor.
According to the American Cancer Society, nasopharyngeal carcinoma "is quite rare. In most parts of the world (including the United States), there's less than one case for every 100,000 people each year." It also states that scientists believe that the Epstein-Barr virus may play a part in the rare cancer.
Once Morgan and her parents learned about the possible link between the virus and nasopharyngeal carcinoma, they narrowed down the activities of her life to see how she could have contracted the virus. It was agreed that she may have gotten her drink mixed up with someone else's during softball practice or may have caught it from school.
Morgan started chemotherapy and radiation about seven days after her diagnosis. She completed six months of chemotherapy and two months of radiation in an effort to shrink the tumor. During that time, she could not attend school, and did not have regular visits at first.
She stayed one week in Little Rock for treatment and observation then the following three weeks at her grandmother's house, where she slept in a hospital bed.
"They took everything out of the room and sanitized the entire room," she said. "If someone wanted to come visit, they had to sanitize practically their entire bodies and wear a mask."
Once she had completed several treatments, her family slowly allowed her to start socializing again.
"I had to still wear a mask, and I didn't go back to school yet, but I was able to see people regularly."
Morgan and her family received so much support from friends, neighbors and the Texarkana community as a whole. Her mother and grandmother partnered with the Moose Lodge on New Boston Road in Texarkana, Texas, to host a fundraiser to assist with medical bills.
"My softball family put together a softball tournament, too. It was good. We got so much support from everyone," she said.
As Morgan continued to homeschool, travel to receive treatments and recover from the side-effects of treatment, she remained hopeful of a good outcome.
Her hope wasn't misplaced
"It shrunk the tumor a lot and it stopped growing so they stopped the treatment and started scans every three months," Morgan said.
They continued to monitor the tumor as Morgan grew older. With no growth showing and no more treatments, Morgan started getting back to regular life. By her junior year of high school, she was back in a classroom and her hair was growing back.
She was sitting in class one day when she had a feeling of something in her nose.
"I sniffed one good time and then I started choking. I spit into a tissue and my tumor was there," she said. "My mom and I took it to the doctor and had it sent off for testing."
The results came back that it was in fact the mass that was once causing her so much pain. The next MRI scan she had done had solidified the test results even more. The tumor was no longer inside her nasal cavity. She was 17 years old when she finally heard the words, "Your cancer is in remission."
Morgan and her parents were overjoyed to hear those words. She began a new treatment plan, one that consisted of regularly scheduled tests and scans for the next three to five years.
"So once I was in remission, I had to get a full workup at the doctor's office with scans every three months for a year. Then, I had to do it again every 6 months for three years. After that, I just had to go once a year," Morgan said.
At 21 years old, Morgan saw her physician at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock for the last time. He discharged her as a patient and said she could go to a primary doctor in Texarkana.
Morgan's family, including her twin brother, had no history of cancer. However, being a cancer survivor brings on a new set of concerns.
"I do wonder sometimes when I have a headache if maybe it's more, but I think people who know I had cancer worry about me more than I do," she said.
Morgan continues to live to the fullest every day with her husband, sons and family. She tries to remain positive and optimistic.
"One of the very first things my oncologist said to my mother and I was 'This battle is 20% medical and 80% attitude. I think she will do just fine,' Morgan said. "If you allow something to defeat you, it will. Your battle is only as strong as you allow it to be."