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St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway: Bakersfield woman recounts battle with rare brain tumor

Bethany Elliott, of Bakersfield, Calif., is seen in the foreground in a photo provided by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Elliott was treated by St. Jude for a rare brain tumor and now works as a nurse at a children's hospital at Stanford

Bethany Elliott was the typical16-year-old girl attending Bakersfield High School. She liked ceramics and was on the swim team.

"I was just a normal student, but I realized some things were just not quite right with me," she said.

Elliott said she couldn't keep up with her four siblings and eventually had to hang up her swimsuit.

"I was having headaches, every time I would get home from school, and I would come home early because I wasn't doing swim team, I was exhausted," she said. "I would go to bed for four hours, wake up, have dinner then go back to bed."

Her mother, Leah Elliott, is a nurse and naturally took her daughter to the doctor. Over the course of a few years, Leah Elliott said her daughter saw 10 doctors and six specialists in town and out of town.

"One doctor actually said, 'This is something big, but we just don't know what it is,"' recalled Leah Elliott.

With no definitive answers, the mother and daughter started to do their own research.

"She started coming up with some diagnoses that were pretty intense, like a brain tumor," said Leah Elliott.

Not satisfied with the results she was getting, Bethany Elliott said insisted on an MRI. That's when her worst fears were confirmed. She said she picked up her scans on her own, sat in a parking lot and read that she has a brain tumor. She was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor called a craniopharyngioma.

"I really thought this was going to be the end of her, with that kind of diagnosis," her mother said. "I thought she was going to die."

Bethany Elliott shared her mother's grim outlook. She said she started to write a bucket list.

"I started thinking about all the things I wanted to do before this tumor killed me," she said.

Before giving up, the mother and daughter got back on the computer and they said a glimmer of hope flashed across the screen. It was information about St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

RELATED CONTENT | Tickets now available for 2018 St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway

A new study using proton radiation was just getting underway, and Bethany Elliott said she found out she was the perfect candidate.

"The whole time in my head I was thinking, 'How could I not do this? How could I be the person to stand in the way of finding a diagnosis for somebody else?'" she said.

The therapy has seemed to work. Bethany Elliott is now 25 years old, graduated from California State University, Bakersfield and is a nurse at a children's hospital at Stanford.

She still has her tumor and said she doesn't know what the future holds, but she will be forever grateful for St. Jude.

Tickets now available for the 2018 St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway in Bakersfield. Eyewitness News is a partner for this Dream Home Giveaway, which benefits St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

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