New York police officers are rallying around one of their own who racked up around $30,000 in medical bills after being treated for Stage 3 brain cancer in October.
Agy Peña, 30, said she went to the doctor in October to address her problem of frequent headaches and fainting episodes, but came out with worse news than she was expecting.
“I had been getting headaches too many times,” Peña told the New York Post a mere two weeks after reclaiming her ability to speak, which she lost after surgery. “The doctor sent me for an MRI. A few hours later, I went to take the disc to the doctor. He called me inside and told the horrific news – that I had a brain tumor on the left side. It was terrifying.”
Her tumor was classified as anaplastic astrocytoma. Two days after her diagnosis, Peña, accompanied by her mother and boyfriend, went to the North Shore Long Island Jewish Hospital to undergo surgery.
The doctors removed 95 percent of the tumor from the sergeant’s brain, leaving the remaining 5 percent in order to avoid permanent brain damage and loss of motor skills. However, despite the care and precision used to remove most of the cancerous growth, Peña had to face physical and speech therapy because she was unable to talk and very weak when she woke up.
“When they do surgery on the left side of the brain, your right side gets weak,” she told the Post. “I couldn’t grasp anything on my right side.”
She has since gone through different kinds of rehabilitation as well as chemotherapy so that she can regain her old life. Peña has returned to the gym with her sights set on eventually being able to participate in a Zumba workout.
She finally completed speech therapy in May, but she said it wasn’t an easy process.
“I could think of it all in my head, but I couldn’t speak it,” Peña said, according to Metro newspaper in New York. . “My brain was kind of going like a hundred miles an hour.”
Radiation lasted until mid-January for the nine-year veteran of the force, and she continues to undergo chemotherapy for five continuous days with 28 days off for recovery. Although the tumor has shrunk, an unidentifiable source has produced liquid in Peña’s brain.
The medical bills associated with the procedure and treatments have been challenging for the homeowner, especially since her insurance won’t cover around $22,000 of her tab.
She has been able to keep up with payments, but in order to assist their “sister in blue,” Peña’s best friend, Sgt. Alexandra Sarubbi, in addition to several other officers, organized a fundraiser to take place at the end of June.
Peña said her family and friends have been supportive from the very beginning.
“I was by myself,” she told Metro. “I didn’t know what to do. I called my mom right away, and my boyfriend, and everyone was so supportive.”
Peña is currently on indefinite sick leave and looks forward to eventually getting back to work at the 48th precinct in the Bronx. She refuses to leave the force on disability because can’t imagine what she would do otherwise.
“I thought [being a cop] was the most exciting thing that I could do,” she told Metro. “I didn’t want to have a job that I would wake up to and, you know, go to an office everyday and sit there.”