As the biggest form of entertainment in the world today, video games sometimes get blamed for some of the worst examples of humanity. The stories, however, that aren’t heard about nearly enough are the examples of how video games can and have helped people across the world.
One such example is Houston, Texas native Lizzy Silvas, who credits her recovery from a childhood brain tumor to one of video gaming’s most iconic characters ever.
It all started with the diagnosis of a tumor as a young child.
“Three doctors told my dad I had migraine headaches. Had my dad listened to them, I’d be dead today,” Silvas recalled. “I learned I finally had the brain tumor when a family doctor took my headaches, stiff neck, and poor balance serious. I was sent to get an MRI and that is when they found the brain tumor. It was located just above the brain stem where tumors are usually inoperative due to location. This tumor had two weeks before it would have spread and killed me.”
Fortunately for Silvas, the doctor’s surgery was a success, but she remembers a recovery that was very challenging both at home and at school. As she fought to get back to a sense of normalcy she found herself bullied.
“Shortly after my surgery, I begin recovery. I had to learn everything over again. Almost everything that a baby learned, I had to learn over again,” she said. “The hardest was walking, running, using my hands and talking. When I began school, I was bullied badly for not being able to talk right. I stuttered a lot and when I got scared by bullies, I stuttered and drooled. Kids enjoyed watching me when I tried to run or play sports because it was so funny to see me fall. I feared dodge ball because the other students would purposely chase and charge after me slamming the ball at my head then laughing when I fell to the floor. I was reminded everyday how ugly I looked, how diseased and how I should of died instead because nobody wanted me there.”
To avoid her tormentors, Lizzy was allowed to skip school one day and go shopping with her parents. It was on that trip she discovered the Sega Genesis and the now-classic Sonic the Hedgehog. Silvas states that it was the best decision she ever made.
“My focusing on the Sonic games is what helped me heal,” she stated. “I healed much faster when I played Sonic games. The cartoon gave me inspiration and courage to be strong and be just like Sonic. So I would get up and try to run just like Sonic. The comics I read helped me to read and control my stuttering. To me Sonic the Hedgehog is more than just a video game character. He is my blue guardian angel.”
Today, over 20 years since her surgery and recovery, Silvas takes the time to share her story, hoping that it will show the positive things video games can do and to inspire others.
“I’m the chapter leader of a charity march called the March of the Blanketeers. I share my brain tumor story where I can,” she added. “My story is in Sonic Super Special #11 by Archie Comics and I speak on panels at anime conventions, Sega related podcasts and more.”
Lizzy also had advice and encouraging words for anyone else who is facing struggles in life, from a brain tumor to every day challenges.
“Never give up. Fight, smile and think positively every day no matter what,” she added. “Because you never know what tomorrow will bring if your crying today about yesterday. Just smile and focus on what makes you happy. Even a favorite video game.”
Lizzy Silvas can be found on Twitter at @Lizzy_Silvas.