Ewing Sarcoma Survivor Plans to Enter the Medical Field

"People look in the mirror, and you see yourself. You have this picture of yourself, and when that picture gets taken away, that's when you have to be strong and not need a mirror to know who you are."

Eileen Fauteux

Eileen Fauteux described the pain like a “searing knife in the back.” Three days later, she began to lose feeling in her legs.

It was November of 2015, and the college student was finishing up exams during her third year at Virginia Tech. Instead of heading home for the Thanksgiving holiday, she went to the hospital. An MRI revealed that Eileen had a tumor, and she was rushed into surgery to remove it.

The tumor was successfully removed, and thought to be benign (not cancer). But 10 days later, Fauteux and her mother, Peggy, received the pathology report results.

“My mom and I were in a HomeGoods parking lot when we got the call that it was Ewing sarcoma,” Fauteux said. “We hung up, bawled our eyes out, and then asked ourselves, ‘What in the heck is Ewing sarcoma?’”

Fauteux and her mother began to read about Ewing tumors. Most are diagnosed in teens, but they can also affect younger children as well as adults, usually young adults like Fauteux.

“We knew that this was the worst scenario that we could be dealt,” said Peggy. “They were trying to rule this one out, and that’s why it took 10 days to find out our diagnosis. It’s a tumor that loves to come back.”

Fauteux’s treatment plan included 9 months of chemotherapy and 6 weeks of radiation. She credits her positive outlook for getting her through it all.

“People ask how I’m being so optimistic and being so positive when something so horrible happens. But it’s kind of the only option,” Fauteux said. “Negativity isn’t an option.”

“She is just driven,” Peggy said of her daughter. “She’s not going to let this slow her down.”

Hope Lodge community provides home away from home

Fauteux underwent radiation therapy Monday through Friday. Instead of traveling 2 hours to and from her home each day, she and Peggy stayed at the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge community in Baltimore, Maryland. It’s a free place to stay when the best option for treatment is away from home.

“This truly is our home away from home, without a doubt,” said Peggy. “When you walk in, you are welcomed by the other patients who are there. There are a lot of people coming and going, so a lot of friendships have developed since day one.”

Relay For Life event has new meaning

Years before Fauteux was diagnosed with cancer, she was an active volunteer in her college’s Relay For Life event. But this year’s event was different; she was undergoing treatment for cancer herself. Fauteux didn’t let that hold her back. Right after a morning radiation session, she and her family drove 3 hours to Virginia Tech so Fauteux could surprise her friends who were Relaying in her honor. She made it just in time to walk the Survivors Lap.

Fauteux’s friends, who hadn’t seen her for months, showered her with hugs and tears of joy. “There’s so much love here. No one can be sick in this environment,” said Fauteux at the event.

Hope for the road ahead

Fauteux finished her treatment and is heading back to Virginia Tech this fall to complete her senior year of college. She plans to graduate on time and continue on to graduate school to become a physician assistant. She has always been interested in the medical field.

“This experience will help me in the medical field, and it’s made my passion for it so much stronger, in terms of wanting to find answers,” said Fauteux. “I just can’t wait to finally be able to have that white coat and get on the other side of the table and be able to give back.”

Despite facing many challenges, Fauteux remains hopeful and plans to continue to inspire others to do the same. “I’ll stay optimistic. Honestly, I’m open to sharing my story with other people,” she said. “I had no idea how much of an impact I could have on other people until I went through something like this.”

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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