By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Staff Writer | Published May 26, 2016
ATLANTA—The high school years of Mary “Frannie” Geeslin, graduating May 21 from St. Pius X High School in Atlanta, have been marked by perseverance.
The July before her freshman year Geeslin received the diagnosis of a brain tumor. She was determined to have a traditional high school experience.
“I kind of just acted like a normal and healthy freshman,” she recalled. “I didn’t look like there was anything wrong.”
Geeslin said it was a combination of support from teachers, who did “more than they had to,” and her family that helped her to succeed.
She is the daughter of Jim and Shea Geeslin and has two brothers and one sister. They are parishioners of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Atlanta.
Geeslin had a DNET tumor the size of two fists. “It caused simple partial seizures, which still present themselves if I am not on medication,” she explained.
She underwent two craniotomies within two weeks, each procedure lasting between 10 and 12 hours. A drain reduced swelling, and Geeslin was hospitalized for a month.
Geeslin classifies her health as stable, although she was left with problems in cognitive and visual functioning. While the cognitive functioning improved, she will never have a full field of vision.
“I didn’t know if I’d be able to go all the way,” said Geeslin of the academic work.
Her health struggles also meant giving up sports like lacrosse due to concussion risk, and other teenage pastimes like taking the wheel of a car.
“I’m not driving. That’s a big inconvenience,” she said. “The vision’s kind of a problem.”
At St. Pius X, students can make use of the Study Support program, a class period where students receive help in time management, study skills, or concept reinforcement, based on individual needs.
Study Support teacher Dena Peck said the program also helps students not officially in the program, including Geeslin. These students come before or after school, during lunch or study hall to receive “accommodations,” such as extended time for testing.
“She is very polite and worked hard. No kid ever wants to be viewed as different, and in her situation she had to have accommodations so she could get the information from her brain onto the paper,” said Peck. “I commend her for being willing to try different things so we could figure out what would work best.”
Geeslin said her favorite classes have been Spanish and English, particularly writing.
“The way they teach writing here has helped,” she said.
Geeslin explored attending the University of Georgia, but now she plans to go to the University of Colorado Boulder campus. She thanked the guidance counseling staff for “helping me to be more open-minded” about college possibilities.
“I have good family friends in Boulder. I wouldn’t feel too stranded,” she said.
Geeslin said teacher Elizabeth Ross laid a good foundation for writing, and she sees a connection between writing and her planned course of study.
“I am interested in film studies. I feel like there’s a link,” she said.
Geeslin’s favorite film genre is the action documentary such as “The Art of Flight.”
Volunteering for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation is important to Geeslin.
She lends her writing abilities to the foundation’s Georgia chapter in Atlanta.
“I write thank you letters to sponsors,” she said.
She hopes to continue volunteering as the foundation has branches across the nation.
After graduation, Geeslin hopes to secure a summer job.
Geeslin paused to show a bracelet she wears with several saints depicted. She mentioned that her confirmation saint is St. Lucy.
“She’s the patron saint of the visually impaired,” explained Geeslin.
With four years of hard work under her belt, Geeslin has advice for any student with challenges whether health or academic-related.
“Try not to keep it a secret from everyone. That didn’t work out so well,” she said.
Peck called Geeslin amazing, and describes her as a student who never wanted to “put anyone out” by having to take academic accommodations.
“It has been great to see her become an advocate for what she needs,” said Peck. “I am so proud of her accomplishments.”