I am an active duty military officer and a mother of three young children. When I was 34 years old, I suffered a grand mal seizure and was rushed to the emergency room, where a golf-ball-sized tumor was discovered in my left temporal lobe. I never had any symptoms prior to the seizure, and I was completely and utterly shocked. After a blur of scans, appointments, and insurance authorizations, the tumor was surgically removed. At the time, I thought this would be the end of it, but it was only the beginning.
I had a very good surgery with an attentive medical team and a 95-percent resection. Although I physically recovered very fast, pathology revealed that I had a glioma, specifically astrocytoma, so more or less brain cancer. The word “cancer” was sparingly used and left me very confused. I was devastated. I spent countless days researching the disease online. The more I read, the more I panicked, and the worse I felt.
I was so fortunate to discover the Brain Tumor Network online, and they have been an incredible resource for me in so many ways. I worked with Anna Willson, who is beyond amazing. Early on, I simply needed help understanding the disease and my prognosis. She sent me information that was broken down in a way that I could understand, and she answered every possible question I could come up with. Honestly, just having someone I could talk to who understood brain tumors in general helped me work through an incredibly difficult experience when it was so foreign to everyone in my life.
Once I came to terms with what I was dealing with, the Brain Tumor Network helped me navigate and tackle every obstacle I faced. Anna helped me coordinate second and third opinions to confirm my diagnosis and circumnavigate differing opinions. She helped me transfer my medical records to and from various institutions; this is quite time-consuming and took a ton of stress off my plate. She also helped me research and consider two clinical trials. I’ve discovered clinical trials are another complex world to understand. Anna’s support has empowered me to play an active role in making decisions regarding my own health and life, and for that, I am incredibly grateful.
As I prepare for a second brain surgery to attempt a total resection, I feel much more at ease this time knowing I’ll have te Brain Tumor Network by my side as my family and as I enter the next phase of this journey. I don’t think anyone really understands what to expect when they abruptly enter the complex, high-risk world of brain tumors, but the Brain Tumor Network is a perfect resource to help anyone find their own unique way.