Once upon a time, I had a fairy-tale romance with a handsome French mountain climber. Jean-Francois and I were married for twenty-seven years, lived in France and divorced in 2007. A year later, I moved to back home to Los Angeles, CA, to be closer to my family.
September 14, 2009 – I’ll never forget that phone call from our older son who was visiting his dad in France. “Mom, Dad’s had a seizure. He’s in hospital.” My world crumbled at that moment with the accumulated losses of leaving Europe after thirty years, family and friends, my whole life if you will, and anticipated grief, knowing that for a healthy vibrant 55-year old man to have a seizure was really bad news. He was diagnosed with GBM/PNET. PNET is an embryonic tumor that in rare cases may never develop until decades later. It looks like medulloblastoma under a microscope. Such was the case for Jean-Francois.
Although divorced, we vowed to stay connected because of our children. He died February 5. 2011, seventeen months later after two surgeries, and repeated seizures. We spoke via Skype and he asked me not to tell our sons. He would do that. Our vow to stay connected saved my life.
On August 23, 2013, he visited me in a dream to warn me that I had something terribly wrong. I knew what he was telling me even before having any symptoms. A few weeks later, ironically on Sept 14, 2013, the day he had his seizure four years earlier in France, the first violent headache landed me in urgent care. Fortunately, the doctor I saw for my follow-up visit believed in the power of dreams to predict illness and agreed to my request for an MRI. He knew that my kids had already lost their dad to a brain tumor and knew we all wanted to know asap what was going on.
As I was getting ready to leave from the MRI, the technician said, “Deborah we’ve seen something we’re concerned about. They’re waiting for you in the ER. The doctors didn’t let me out of their sight knowing how urgent this was. At that moment, I thanked Jean-Francois for being my guardian angel, watching over me, effectively saving my life with an early warning. I decided I would beat whatever they found and have never looked back on that decision.
Two days later, on the day he would have been 60, the surgeon successfully removed all the visible tumor, an apricot sized encapsulated GBM tumor located on the surface of my right temporal lobe. I went home 2 days later on my 60th birthday.
Following that day, he visited me in many dreams, reassuring me that I would be okay, that it wasn’t my time yet and not to worry. He also took me through the veil to see where he was now. To my surprise, in doing research on near-death experiences, many people described what they heard and saw nearly exactly as when I went through the veil with him! As I write this today, I have been thriving with GBM for 5 years and 8 months. I expect to keep on thriving for many years to come.
I cannot answer the question I hear all the time, “How is it that you and your husband both got GBM? Was the environment?” Well, no one knows and as I mentioned, he was born with embryonic tumor cells, not at all my case.
I don’t think about GBM too much because thankfully I don’t suffer any debilitating side effects, other than tremendous fatigue sometimes. However, I feel very strongly that an optimistic attitude in the face of such a huge curve ball makes all the difference. I believe your energy flows to where your thoughts go. My energy goes to thriving health, not to GBM. However, I do realize that I am fortunate and blessed in many ways. Others may not be so fortunate. Yet, we are all unique, within this same diagnosis, with our own path to walk on this journey we didn’t choose. Blessings and love to each one of you.
— Deborah Dutilh