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Elementary Teacher with an Avocado Size, Stage 3 Brain Tumor

Published on October 23, 2014 in Share Your Story

Elementary Teacher with an Avocado Size, Stage 3 Brain Tumor


I am a brain tumor survivor and have been tumor free for over 3 years now. What you may not know is what it is like to be a brain tumor survivor. I want to try and paint a picture for you (see attached) of what this means because it doesn’t have to be like this for future brain tumor patients. The reason I am telling you a brief summary of my story is because I believe that together it is possible to fight cancer and win.

Having brain cancer means many things. Your brain is the control center of your entire body so tumors can literally affect anything and everything about life as you know and live it. My tumor was lodged in between my motor and sensory cortexes, and by the time it was discovered, it had grown to measure the size of an avocado. Brain tumors often go undiagnosed for a long time because the brain’s protective shell, known as the skull, prevents any possibility for early detection by touch. It’s also hard for doctors to diagnose the cause of a patient’s symptoms as a brain tumor without a brain scan, and tumors often get misdiagnosed due to the multitude of other possibilities that can cause the patient’s symptoms. By the time brain tumors are diagnosed, they are typically in advanced stages. For me, the doctor thought I had a sinus infection because of the migraines I was having. About a year later, I was at home alone thinking I was having a heart attack or a stroke because of my left side going numb, and my left leg was crumbling beneath me with every step as if it was receiving no signal of what to do from my brain. It turned out that I had had a seizure and the cause was a “mass in my brain”.

A few weeks after my surgery I got a phone call telling me that I had stage 3 brain cancer. Those are words I’ll never forget. So what did I do to cause this type of cancer? The fact is, there is no known cause, and for that matter, no known cure. Sure, there are treatments, like the 30 days of radiation and 16 months of chemo that I went through, but that’s more of a hope than a cure. It’s a way of trying to kill any cancer cells left behind after the surgery, but it’s not a guarantee. In fact, brain tumors have such a high rate of returning, that there is no guarantee it’s ever really gone. For the rest of a survivor’s life they are monitored by brain scans and always hoping they don’t hear the news that a tumor has come back.

Brain tumors can, and most likely will, come back even after all of the surgeries and treatments that patients like me go through, but that can change. This disease is somewhat of an invisible killer, not only because it’s hidden visually by the skull, but because survivors look like there is nothing wrong to the unaware. As a survivor, I can tell you first hand that not a day goes by when I don’t think about it or something in my life has changed to remind me of this. As a teacher, I have often felt that there could be a stigma attached to me since the scar on my head is a clear message that there is something obviously wrong with my brain. Aside from the scar, you might not realize that my life was and is in danger. You might see me run half marathons and not realize that I had to learn to walk again. You might see me play guitar and not realize that I am playing with a hand that was robbed of its sensation and dexterity. You might see food in the corner of my mouth and not realize that it is due to a lazy mouth caused by a stroke I had during surgery. You might see my positive outlook and not realize how likely it is that I could get another tumor. You might even wonder why I don’t have kids and not realize that cancer has made that a difficult process. I can go on, but hopefully you have a clear enough picture of what I am talking about by now.

I am one of the lucky ones.

I ask you now to please help me to fight this disease so that brain tumors can be a thing of the past. That can only happen if we stand together and raise funding for research. If a cause of brain tumors is found, they can be prevented. I also see a future where research makes it possible to detect brain tumors before they are in advanced stages. The ultimate goal is obviously a cure. Let’s fight this invisible killer and kill it where it hides. Please go to my team’s page and be a part of history by helping eradicate brain tumors once and for all.

Here are three ways you can help:

1. Join Team TAN and help us raise funds for this amazing cause. It’s fun and easy, plus you get to walk the field with us at Angel Stadium on September 13th!

2. Donate to my website and help save lives!

3. Become a virtual team member and spread the word to help raise funds quickly and easily from home. Thank you for anything and everything you are willing to do to help! If I raise $2500.00 by the end of this month, I will learn a Taylor Swift break up song and record myself playing/singing it for your entertainment/torture!

Much love,

Phil Bacigalupi

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