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Staying The Course

Published on August 16, 2016 in Share Your Story

I remember the first morning I woke up and felt nauseous for hours and eventually vomited. At first I thought it was just a bug, but that feeling and constant sickness would last every single day for over two years. I would wake up feeling lightheaded and nauseous, eventually vomit, then get on with my day. After the first few months it worsened and I could not even hold down water at some points. I was dropping nearly a pound per day of body weight, and deteriorating as an 18 year old young man. Doctors were treating me for what’s known as “gastroparesis”, but that never seemed to resolve because I was still getting sick.
This difficult journey lasted throughout my senior year of high school and my freshman year of college at Rutgers University. Everyday I woke up sick I tried to stay positive and tell myself “I will conquer this; I will get better”. I had so much in my life to focus on as an 18 year old whether it was graduating high school and preparing for college, or focusing on golf, the only thing that would keep me sane. I just kept pushing and staying as optimistic as I could.
I had just begun my Sophomore year at Rutgers when suddenly things were starting to feel worse than ever before. I had even more trouble getting through my days at school, and could hardly walk on the golf course without feeling sick. One morning I was with my Mother pondering on options for what we could do to end this horrific journey. As I looked at her from across the room I noticed I was seeing two of her. Everywhere I would look would be a double image. This was extremely alarming to my parents and myself and we knew it should be checked immediately. Later that day Dr. Richard Kresloff took one look at my eyes and saw an immense amount of swelling on my optic nerve. He explained to us that this is something with the brain and should be looked at immediately. The following day I received an MRI and it lit up. A tumor located in the fourth ventricle of my brain was the reading and I was scheduled for surgery just two days later. You don’t hear many people say they were relieved when they find out they’re diagnosed with a brain tumor, but for me I kinda was. After meeting one of the nations best neurosurgeons at the Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Donald O’Rourke, he explained that this has been the cause of my stomach issues and I would be in very good hands. His positivity only helped my family and I.
Surgery on October 6, 2014 was a 100% removal! It was a long road that I felt like I had finished, but there was still much recovery to be done. My double vision had worsened, I lost a lot of balance and coordination, but the best feeling was I had a full appetite for the first time in two years! I went right to Magee Rehabilitation Center to gain my strength back, and everything else I had lost. After I completed a month of acute rehab, I received 30 treatments of proton radiation therapy to ensure the tumor would never grow back. This new journey would end on December 31, 2014.
In a way I am still experiencing a bit of recovery because my double vision is now constant. I have had two eye muscle surgeries that have helped improve my vision and there are more on the way. After this difficult journey, I managed to quickly return to Rutgers and playing on the golf team as well. All of this could not have been possible without my parents helping me keep a positive attitude, and my doctors and therapists for a fast and successful recovery. Staying positive and “Sean Strong” really got me through all the tough times I faced. Below is a link to a short clip of my story that aired on the Golf Channel on June 1, 2016.

Opinions expressed within this story belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views or opinions of the National Brain Tumor Society.

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