History scholar and author, Nina Mjagkij, found a map and then found the shores of Indian Rocks Beach in Florida when she decided to take an early retirement from teaching. While settling into her new home and new life, an eye exam found that Nina lost part of her peripheral vision. Her doctor immediately thought it was a stroke.
“What if it’s a brain tumor,’” Nina asked her doctor when he ordered an MRI. “I never knew anyone with a brain tumor before.” Her doctor changed course and diagnosed Nina with two brain tumors after seeing the results of her scan. Nina, ultimately, would undergo surgery to safely remove portions of her tumors.
“I think it was August or September that I first reached out to Nina with my long introductory email,” said Darlene Carroll of New Lebanon, OH and Nina’s mentor. “After that, we would send each other emails almost every day and sometimes several times a day. We finally picked up the phone and talked a few weeks later.”
“It was like finding a long-lost friend,” said Nina. “She gets my humor and understands what I’m going through.”
Darlene is a 22-year brain tumor survivor. When she was first diagnosed with an oligodendroglioma, a common tumor that occurs in young and middle-aged adults, her doctor thought she had about five years.
“We prepared for the worst, but somehow I’m still here,” said Darlene. “What got me through was forming [and sustaining] a support group.”
Darlene started and has maintained on one of the only and oldest brain tumor support groups in her local area for those seeking answers. For Darlene, that’s what the ABTA’s peer-to-peer program is about for an individual.
“If you’re looking for someone to talk to, to share your story with - someone who understands what you’re going through - and build a friendship, that’s the Connect program.”
And sometimes roles reverse. When Darlene’s father passed away this October, Nina was alongside Darlene, giving her support and friendship during that difficult time. The two plan to meet in person sometime in the spring!
Find out how you can find or become a mentor.