Morgan Galdenzi

Flipping Cancer On Its Ear.

Student. Athlete. Fighter. Friend. Morgan Galdenzi is the complete package. There’s no keeping this irrepressible young woman down.

Diagnosed with a brain tumor at 16 years old, she went on to graduate with honors from her Connecticut high school in 2015. She is currently in college, studying for a degree in social work.

An accomplished athlete, she was also a varsity cheerleader throughout high school and co-captained her league and state champion squad her senior year. “Even though I was diagnosed with my brain tumor at 16, cheerleading and my teammates really helped me through and I loved every second of (high school),” she said.

Her story: Morgan had two major craniotomies, after the first full resection at 16 years old during her junior year in high school. She had just been inducted into the National Honor Society. She was on the Varsity Cheerleading team, which had won its league and state championship the year before.

“On March 30th, 2014, I went over a friend’s house to finish an Honors History project. My Mom was called an hour later to come right away. She made it in time to witness me having a grand mal seizure. The EMTs came and brought us to (the hospital). They told us that night I had a large tumor and it would have to be removed. The surgery went well but they told us it was a very rare pediatric tumor and was malignant. I was discharged a couple of days later and was back in school the next week. I had four weeks of radiation and six months of oral chemo. I rarely missed school and went right back on the Cheer team the following week!

I had my first recurrence in January 2016. I had to come home from college. I told my parents, don’t withdraw me because I am going back ASAP. I had my second brain surgery and was back at (college) the following week. I finished the semester that year and had a great summer. I had my MRI (which are every three months), four days before we were leaving for Puerto Rico (December 2016). We found out the tumor came back again. This was scariest of all–less than a year had gone by since my surgery. I still wanted to go to Puerto Rico, the first night was emotionally rough but the rest of the vacation was great. I decided I can’t just stop my life and dwell on the negatives or be scared of what may happen.

Luckily, the May before my mom and I went to see Dr. Mark Kieran, the famous neuro-oncologist. He had mentioned an inhibitor drug they were starting to give pediatric brain tumor patients who have the Braf v600e mutation. When the tumor came back and (the doctors) wanted to operate a third time, we said, no, and called Dr. Kieran. He looked at the MRI and said it was time to treat. So we did and after two months on meds the tumor was gone. I take the TAF/MEK combo–very minimal side effects. I decided to stay home from college Spring 2017 (in case I had side effects) but once again I said, “Do not withdraw me. Tell them I will be back!!!” I took two classes at (our local community college) and worked at Athleta that spring and summer. When August came, once again I returned to college. I changed my major to Social Work and am so happy with this decision. I can’t wait to give back to others and help them, the way I’ve been helped.

Through this entire journey I exercise every day, and this has kept me alive and healthy.”  – Morgan Galdenzi

Her short-term athletic goal: “Increase my endurance and become a faster runner.”

Her long-term athletic goal: “To complete a half marathon.”

Personal Motto: “Carpe Diem.”