KENNESAW, Ga. (May 11, 2016) — Sarah Stream never expected one of the worst things that ever happened to her to turn out to be one of the best things that ever happened to her. Diagnosed with a brain tumor in high school, her battle with cancer would gain her an abiding friendship with an iconic rock star and lead her to become an advocate for teenage cancer patients.
Today, Stream celebrates her good health, the charity work she does with The Who frontman Roger Daltrey on behalf of teen cancer patients, and a bachelor’s degree in middle grades science from the Bagwell College of Education.
“I think it will feel triumphant to turn the page on such a challenging few years of my life,” Stream said of getting her degree. “I’m really excited to start the next chapter in a classroom of my own where I can show my students that they can truly accomplish anything if they set their minds to it.”
Stream was six weeks into her sophomore year when she suffered a gran mal seizure. After X-rays and a CAT scan failed to find a cause, Stream said her father insisted on an MRI, which revealed a small brain tumor in her left temporal lobe.
“It was small and slowing growing, but chemo and radiation didn’t work on this type of tumor,” she said. “I needed surgery, but they didn’t want to jump right in because it was located in the language center of my brain.”
Stream had her first surgery in March 2010, to implant a sheet of electrodes over the area of her brain where the tumor was located. During a week in the hospital, the doctors would have her read aloud to stimulate the electrodes, so they could map how her language was affected when stimulated.
“My next surgery, they took out the map and took out the tumor, and I’ve been cancer- and seizure-free ever since,” she said.
After she was diagnosed with a brain tumor, but before her first surgery, Stream and her father had tickets for a Who concert in Nashville in October 2009. Facing an uncertain future, but knowing his daughter was a “die-hard fan” of The Who, Stream’s father jumped on one of the band’s message boards and said, “Wouldn’t it be cool if (lead singer) Roger said, ‘hi’ to her.”
The legendary British rocker did more than that. Stream got to go back stage to meet Daltrey.
“The first thing he said to me was, ‘where are you being treated,’ and I told him Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and he said, ‘that’s why I do what I do,” Stream recalled. “And, he started telling me about his foundation that is focused on improving the lives of teen cancer patients.”
Recognizing a gap in the health care system in England, Daltrey is co-founder of Teenage Cancer Trust, which works to provide specialized care in an age-appropriate environment for teens battling cancer.
“Teens are treated alongside young children or adults and geriatric patients,” Stream said. “We formed Teen Cancer America and opened our first unit specifically for treatment of teen cancer patients at UCLA in November 2011. We now have a very well-formed charity and about 10 units in the U.S. right now.”
Since the formation of the Teen Cancer America charity, Stream has accompanied Daltrey to press conferences, a speech at the National Press Club and an hourlong appearance on C-SPAN.
“Roger and I are friends,” she said. “It’s pretty surreal.”
Tales of their unique friendship will undoubtedly make their way into Stream’s seventh grade life science classroom at Riverwatch Middle School in Suwanee, Ga., this fall.
“I chose to teach middle school because those are such formative years,” she said. “You’re starting to become the person you’re going to be. It’s a difficult time, but as a teacher it can be incredibly rewarding because you can make a difference at that age.”
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers close to 200 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 41,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the second-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 126 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.