Brain Cancer: A Survivor's Tale

November 19, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

On May 7, 2014 I went to work like any other day. That morning I was not feeling that well when I woke up but nonetheless like most of us do I went to work. While in the office that morning I was experiencing an extreme shooting pain in my head that was making me sick to my stomach. Next thing I knew I woke up to several people standing around and I did not know what was going on. I was angry and frustrated to say the least. The people around me were telling me that I had just had a seizure. That made me even more upset because I don't have a seizure disorder and had never experienced one before, I had just turned 40yrs old for Christ sake and If I had a seizure disorder I should know about it.

I was refusing to let those around me care for me and became belligerent and hostile actually punching a co-worker and great friend. It was not until a paramedic pointed out to me that I had urinated all over myself that I thought to myself, OK maybe I should go with these guys and get checked out. The first thing that I can remember about arriving at the hospital that day is seeing my beautiful wife through the ambulance Windows standing on the curb of the Parker Adventist hospital emergency room waiting for me. That is when I think I began to realize something was really wrong. At the hospital they preformed all kinds of test. They put my wife and I in a room and the Doctor came in to speak with us. He put a picture of an MRI that I had done that day and proceeded to tell us that I had a brain tumor.

I remember seeing Eva's eyes filling up with tears as she was trying to hold them back. To this day in 2016 I don't think that there is any way either one of us could ever forget what the Dr. said next. He said "it is OK to cry, this is very bad news for you and your family". At least he did not bullshit us which as the story goes on you will see so many others did. Ok, so I have a brain tumor that's making me have seizures and piss myself, what's next? Well it turns out I need to speak with a Neurosurgeon and see what we can do about removing this thing. The first Neurosurgeon I saw was at the Parker hospital and both Eva and I really liked him. Too bad he could not do anything for me since he was out of the Kaiser network. He told us that he believed it was a low grade or benign tumor and could be treated with surgery alone. False truth #1.

At this point friends and family from all over the country had started to arrive at the hospital, like we all did just before my father had passed away after his heart attack, that will make your butt cheeks pucker for sure, next thought is hold on pops here I come. So Next I get transferred to St. Joseph Hospital in downtown Denver which is Kaiser approved. Definitely not Parker Adventist. I believe (although not sure because I have a brain tumor and I forget shit), that the next day, May 8th, I met my Neurosurgeon, Dr. Crawford. First impression was that this dude had no personality whatsoever and I did not like him.

By the way the whole brain tumor thing, is the best excuse for forgetting stuff ever, what kind of horrible person would challenge a person with a brain tumor? Dr Crawford confirmed that I needed to have the tumor removed and said he would have to check his calendar to see when it could be done. In the meantime I could go home. For those who no me the next part is no surprise. I said to Crawford "check your schedule, you mean to tell me your schedule is not synced with that fancy little IPhone clipped to your waistband? We need to set a date now not later." He said he would see what he could do. The next morning I was told not to eat breakfast because I was going in for surgery. That's what I thought, [explicit] brain surgeon.

After the surgery I was released on May 11th (Happy Mother's Day mom and Eva), and went home. Two weeks later I was to meet with Dr Crawford to make sure everything went well. Turns out the surgery went as expected but the tumor was not what they thought. It turned out to be what they call an Anaplastic Astrocytoma and was actually malignant. Oh poop. Crawford said that he met with the staff at the hospital and they wanted me to see an oncologist and radiologist because I had young children and they wanted to give me the best chance of a lengthy survival as possible. Of course the next question was, "what is lengthy?"

Well turns out the prognosis for an Anaplastic Astrocytoma is 5 to 15 years. So you are trying to get me to 15years? Let's see, I would be 55, my oldest would be 19 and my youngest would be 16. Oh and to boot even if I decide to have this treatment it is only to slow down the growth of the tumor because there is no cure. More bad news but not the worst. WOW, Eva and I both left the office that day crying. Next stop was the chemo doc. He says that the type of cancer that I have is more rare than we thought. My cancer is missing the 1p 19q deletion which makes it not susceptible to chemo treatment. So the oncologist sends us to the radiologist.

The radiologist devised a 6 week plan for me to go through radiation of the brain, 5 days a week for 6 weeks. Radiation treatment consist of a fitted mesh mask being put over your face and bolted to a table so you could not move. Happy place here I come. The old radiation Dr wanted me to also do chemo 7 days a week during radiation therapy to enhance the effects even though the Oncologist said chemo would be ineffective. What the hell let's give it a shot. I go through all treatment, 1 blood transfusion and 1 platelet transfusion. I'm good right?? Let's start living. Not quite, after several additional MRI's it has been determined that the cancer/tumor that was unable to be removed with surgery remains and was not effected by treatment. Now I go every 6 months to have an MRI to see if there is growth or spread of the cancer.

I have visited many Doctors since and all of them can only guarantee me one thing, the cancer/tumor will grow again, will more than likely be more aggressive, it's just a matter of when. Moral of the story is love life and those around you. Make every day count.

-Mike (Father, Husband, Son...Survivor)


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