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Two weeks ago I was a stressed out middle-aged working Mom just trying to get the summer camp schedule straight and now I have Brain Cancer. How did I get here??
My crazy story started in the beginning of June when I was asked to take on a new (very large, complicated) client to my already full case load at work. As they say no good deed goes unpunished. After receiving stellar ratings from my current clients, I was asked to take on this additional work. I have always been able to juggle a full workload plus the responsibilities of raising 2 children and keeping the house running. Basically the working mom’s standard fair. A few weeks into the new assignment I felt that I could not keep up and the work was getting increasingly anxiety provoking. I did not feel like myself.
I had difficulty concentrating, problem solving and even would forget where I parked my car when I went to the grocery store. For the first time in 25 years at work I was missing deadlines and received a mediocre review. My self diagnosis was stress so I called my primary care doctor and made an appointment. He agreed and thought it was situational stress and prescribed a serotonin pill to help – Celexa.
The pill really did not help and I continued in my foggy state for the rest of the month. On July 5 I was visiting my in-laws at their summer home in NH and I tripped and fell and broke my wrist. The afternoon in the ER determined that I had a NASTY break that would require surgery and a plate to help heal the bones. On July 9 I had the wrist surgery. No complications – just a splint and difficulty using the keyboard on the computer. At this point I just felt like I was clumsy and turning age 50 was taking its toll. I continued to keep my job going – again increasingly more anxiety as I just could not keep up. I decided to explore disability because of my wrist to try to get a few weeks to catch my breath and re-group!
I started to get some killer headaches and nausea. I have always had a weak stomach so I thought I caught the stomach bug from the kids. The headaches and nausea continued and I could not eat or drink for 48 hours so I went again to my primary care – who diagnosed dehydration. I was given an IV bag and for the first time in days did not have a headache. Over the next few days I was able to eat and got my strength back. On July 19 I was scheduled for a post op appointment for the hand surgeon to get the stitches out. My sister, Marcey drove me to the appt. On the way to her house I felt nauseous again and by the time we made it to the doctor’s office I had another killer headache and full blown nausea.
Another call to the primary care and they told Bob to bring me to the ER for a cat scan. I didn’t want to go and spend hours in the ER waiting room trying not to throw up – but to Emerson Hospital we went. Waited the requisite 5 hours and had a cat scan. The attending doctor came in and said – there is a mass presenting itself on your brain so we need to rush you by ambulance to Lahey Clinic where you can get an MRI so we can get a better idea of what this is.
WHAT???? Mass??? we were in shock. I was in the ambulance and my husband followed by car. So at midnight I was getting an MRI – very disorienting test!. By the next morning the neurologist was indicating that I needed surgery to remove a Brain Tumor!!!
Okay – I was like – do you have the correct chart? So I forgot where I parked my car (it happens) but really a Brain tumor?? At 1:00 on July 27th I had brain surgery to remove the Brain Tumor. My parents had driven in from CT – the surgeon believed that it was operable and we hoped for the best! The surgery was very successful – they were able to remove 99.9% of the tumor and I recovered fully with no neurological deficits. No weakness. It seems crazy but I actually felt better than I had in a long time!
Next step – pathology…we were hoping for the best, but we realized that something was up and there would be follow-up treatments. On Friday, August 6 we met with the Brain Tumor clinic at Lahey to find out the results.
Now for the medical jargon:
I have a glioblastoma – which is an aggressive growing tumor. Good news is that my tumor was primary site – so it was not metastasized from another site in my body. Is it CANCER? Simply – yes. But highly unlikely to spread to other parts of body.
Other good news is that the treatments and success for these tumors has been improving exponentially in the past 10 years. 10 years ago the survival rate was 14 months. Now for someone in my position the survival rate is commonly 7 – 10 years or longer. Basically I will need to have radiation and chemo for about 6 weeks (at the same time) to prevent the tumor from growing back.
Factors for success:
Thank you everyone for your support and love – I do feel it and I am very blessed to be receiving it!
So the outlook is good. Am I scared – hell YES! Freaked out by the whole thing too! But I am determined to fight this and WIN! These extra pounds on me make me very STURDY! I am a tough cookie! Since that fateful day, 7/27/2010, I had a second opinion at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. I am currently on a clinical trial that has been working! My MRIs have been stable for over 2 years. I am a 4 year survivor!
So Bob and I and the kids are going to stick together and beat this. I will continue to need your love and support and I am trying to make myself slow down and be the patient – that is hard for me.