Slovakian woman sees life in new light after protons defeat rare sinus tumor

This is Part 2 of Gabriela’s story. Part 1 is here !
Recently married and in the second year of her career as a skincare sales representative, 31-year-old Gabriela Jágerská was shaken by her doctors’ discovery: A malignant tumor nearly the size of a tennis ball was growing in the sinus area on the right side of her face.

Gabriela’s physicians in Bratislava, Slovakia, deemed surgery just too risky. As Gabriela endured two courses of chemotherapy, she and her husband awaited an assessment from physicians at the Proton Therapy Center Czech in Prague.

“When you talk with the doctors there, they’re not talking to you about ‘you’ll be healthy again,’” says Gabriela. “They said it will be one year or two years before they’re sure the cancer is gone.”

Gabriela appreciated the candid and caring discussions she and her husband had with her physicians. Considering the very limited treatment options to treat her rare sinus carcinoma, protons offered Gabriela the hope of “a normal life, like before cancer happened,” she says.

Gabriela took a leave from her work in Slovakia and, with her husband, moved from their home to Prague, Czech Republic, for two months to undergo proton treatments and four rounds of chemotherapy.

“It was great for us to be together in the moment,” Gabriela recalls. “Prague at Christmas was beautiful. We talked about our lives. We talked about my life coming to an end. We were really open. Even as I talk about it now, I’m a little scared.”

Proton therapy was hard for Gabriela, physically and mentally. Proton beams were fired into Gabriela’s face and neck where there are lots of nerves and lymph nodes. Her face ballooned from the radiation burns. She could barely eat or drink. “It was the worst pain in my life,” she remembers.

They returned home at the end of January 2014 and Gabriela weathered the harsh, lingering side effects of the proton treatments and chemotherapy.

“I still couldn’t eat,” she says. “And my face was so big. And I just needed to lay down and sleep.” After about three months of recuperation, Gabriela was beginning to feel more like normal.

“It’s good I am working for this company,” Gabriela says. “I can see how our skin care products are really helping people. They really helped treat the radiation burn I had on my face. After two or three weeks, it went away. And now I have better skin on my face than before my treatment.”

Gabriela returned to her job in July, six months after her proton treatments ended. She was grateful that the company she works for gave her the leeway to listen to her body and ease back into her sales calls. “My CEO, my managers and my colleagues said to me: ‘Don’t worry about work; if you feel tired, go home. Rest and don’t worry about it,’” says Gabriela.

“Today, I feel more like before,” Gabriela says. “I can see. I have some small pain in my face. But every day gets better. Cancer opened my eyes to what is important in life. I’m trying to be happy every day. Because the sun is out. Because my dogs — and people I love — are happy. One day at a time, that’s my motto.”