Taya Sheen has battled before. The first time was as a preemie, born at 1 pound, 14 ounces.
Now the Tehachapi High School senior is battling again. This time, it's a rare form of cancer.
"I have recently been diagnosed with cancer, so I've been super busy with a lot going on — a big, big life change," Taya said Thursday on "Open Up," a program livestreamed at bakersfield.com.
The spunky 18-year-old shared her gripping story of what it's really like to have cancer along with her parents, Scott and Megan Sheen, and was interviewed by host Emma Grimes, who is also a THS senior and Taya's classmate, and co-host Jessica Mathews of League of Dreams.
Finding the cancer
Last December, Taya said, she experienced pain and swelling in one of her ankles. She went to the doctor, and was first thought to have a sprained ankle for which she received an orthopedic boot.
Said Taya, "I had it on for a month, and then got it off. It seemed fine, but then the 'sprained' ankle came back, so it was obvious that something more serious was going on."
After having an MRI and CT scans a few weeks ago, doctors found a tumor and diagnosed her with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare form of cancer.
Taya is currently being home schooled through THS, but still plans to graduate with her class.
Said Taya, "I want to get through my senior year as well as I can through all the challenges that I have."
Asked about her feelings when she found out about the tumor, Taya said, "It was definitely terrifying because you hear about people with cancer, but it's like an alternate universe and you never think that you are going to get it. When you get that news, you kinda go into shock. I remember the doctor telling me, and I could see her mouth moving, but I couldn't hear anything that was coming out of her mouth. It was really scary. I was really trying to listen, because this was my new life."
Taya said her parents were with her through her first treatment.
Said Taya, "They are both really supportive, and always there when I need them for a shoulder to cry on or when I need someone to make me laugh to get my mind off of it."
'A lot of faith'
Taya's mother, Megan, said her daughter has remained strong and courageous.
Said Megan, "She has a lot of faith, and if she can do this, then I have no excuse. Absolutely, we are here for her 100 percent. The Lord has given us a lot of strength, lots of prayers. The community, our family and friends have surrounded us, and that makes a big difference."
Taya said a lot of youth leaders have come to her house during the day to spend time with her because she doesn't want to be alone. However, she says it is her LDS Mormon faith that has led her through this dark hour.
"That is a huge, huge part of my life, and it is everything to me," she said about her faith. "It really helps me through this challenge knowing that my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know what I am going through and they can help me through that; through prayer of all my supporters and the people who love me, and you can really feel it."
Taya said she has remained hopeful and positive since her diagnosis.
"I realized that I don't want to be, like, 'Oh, I hate my life because I have cancer. My life is horrible,' because I can't live for like a year or a year and a half miserable like that," she said. "Everything that I post, I try to keep that positive energy going so I don't get down in that rut. By doing that, I can help inspire people who are going through the same thing or something similar. You don't have to be miserable when you are going through this because there are so many other good things about life."
A new 'hairstyle'
Taya shaved her head after undergoing her first round of chemotherapy. She has posted pictures of her new "hairstyle" on her Facebook and blogspot pages.
Said Taya, "On Sunday, I was taking a shower, and I ran my hand through my hair, and like a third of my hair came out in my hand. It was just really mortifying, and I, obviously, just cried. I didn't think it would be that big of a deal at first because my hair isn't that big of a deal to me, but when it's falling out in huge chunks like that, it's kinda, like, terrifying. So, we made an executive decision to shave it off."
After shaving her head, Taya found she really loved sporting her new look.
"I didn't think that I would, but I do," she said.
Taya said she started her blogspot originally as an outlet to express her feelings; however, she soon realized others were responding to her posts.
"It's kinda been a way to inspire others, and it's really cool to be able to do that through a blog," she said. "I never thought that I would do that, but here I am. It's cool to be able to share my story and to be honest about what's going on because there is so much negativity out there, and I want to be positive."
Taya went into detail about her experience undergoing chemotherapy for the first time on "Open Up."
"It was really scary, because you are being poisoned to get rid of something that's not supposed to be there. Just the drive is anticipatory and kinda nerve racking," she said.
Taya will be required to have all 17 of her treatments at Cedars-Sinai in Beverly Hills because of the rarity of her cancer.
Taya said she experienced a lot of nausea following her first treatment as well as fatigue.
"I napped probably 10 times while we were down there. You don't really feel it while it is happening, but the aftereffects, like after you leave the hospital and go to a motel and sleep; you will be nauseous and it's not the greatest thing ever," she said.
Taya's father, Scott, shared how helpless it can feel being a parent of a child fighting cancer.
Said Scott, "Just watching her go through this, as a parent, just kills me. It's so hard, but just watching her be so positive, it just rubs off on everybody and me, too. You hear your daughter has cancer, and what are you going to do? I always say it's something that daddy can't fix. I just have to sit on the sidelines and fight alongside her. That is all I can do."
Taya's father said she has always been a strong person, starting from her premature birth.
Said Scott, "She has been amazing her whole life, and I can't even express how proud I am of her. She gives me the strength."
Taya is the oldest of three children. She says the experience has also been traumatic on her younger siblings.
"As an older sister, you're supposed to be that big inspiration and person who helps them through life, and now that's harder with all the things that I've got going on," she said. But, they are inspirations to me; they are strong and are always there for me, and we have long in-depth conversations about life all the time, and we are super close. It really helps me get through this experience."
Taya's next chemotherapy session will last seven days, with a two or three week break following. She said her parents plan to switch off for the remainder of her treatments; however, the expense of making the trips to Los Angeles adds up fast.
Said Taya, "Obviously cancer is super, super expensive. GoFundMe has been super helpful through all of this, and people can donate through that. All of my supporters have really been helpful through all of it."
Taya said she plans to continue her blog every week and following treatments. She writes, "Fighting faithfully because I still have things to do."
Said Taya, "I want to be super honest about it; the good and the bad. My last one was about my hair and let people know what was going on with that."
To follow Taya's journey as a cancer patient, visit thesmallmiracle.blogspot.com. The site includes links to her Facebook, a GoFundMe webpage, and other social media sites. Her interview with "Open Up" can also be viewed on the site.
Other than donations, Taya said she could use support and love.
Said Taya, "Prayers are really good. People have brought us dinners, and it just makes life so much easier."