My name is Courtney. I am a thirty-year-old internal medicine physician living with brain cancer. My brain tumor journey started in January of 2020 when I was studying medicine in Chiang Mai, Thailand. While there, I began to have strange neurological symptoms including left hand tingling and dysphagia, or swallowing abnormalities. These symptoms turned out to be focal seizures, my body’s one and only symptom of a large brain tumor growing in my right frontal lobe.
I ended up diagnosing myself with a brain tumor in Thailand. Since that time, I have returned to the United States, undergone two invasive brain surgeries, and was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma. I completed chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Fortunately, I am doing well at this time.
Even as a physician, a brain tumor diagnosis is confusing, overwhelming, and terrifying. Throughout my journey, I used writing as a therapeutic way to cope with this unexpected diagnosis. I started a blog, which gained an unexpected following, and readers motivated me to write a book. My first book, a memoir called Difficult Gifts: A Physician’s Journey to Heal Body and Mind, will be published in February 2021.
In addition to writing, I found incredible support through the Brain Tumor Network. My neuro-oncologist introduced me to the Brain Tumor Network shortly after my diagnosis, describing it as a free, helpful resource for patients living with brain tumors. I filled out the easy online patient application on the website, and within hours, I was contacted by the Brain Tumor Network and paired with Kelly, a fantastic navigator, to help me through my brain tumor treatment journey.
I met Kelly over the phone within days of my initial diagnosis, and she has been virtually by my side throughout the past year. Kelly checks in with me after each MRI scan, helps me coordinate with consultants, and even helped me arrange a second opinion at a hospital in another state. The personalized, empathetic, and knowledgeable support Kelly and the entire Brain Tumor Network team provide has made my treatment journey so much more manageable.
I highly recommend the Brain Tumor Network. They are a wonderful resource for brain tumor patients (for both newly diagnosed and long-term warriors), caregivers, and even physicians. Thank you, Brain Tumor Network, for all that you do!