Brenda's Story

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March 22, 2012

People have asked me how I feel about my healing journey. I was diagnosed in December 2007 and I can remember it as if it were yesterday. My husband and I went to a movie and after the movie I went to the restroom. Luckily no one was in there because I found myself crying and talking out loud. I said, "God, I don't want to die." At that time I had no clue what to expect.

Let's start at the beginning. I was diagnosed with MS in August 2000. I had regular MRI's to monitor it. In December 2007, one spot that they thought was an MS plaque grew from the previous MRI. It turned out to be a tumor. I still have MS and MS has nothing to do with cancer - that spot was just misdiagnosed.

When we first found out that I had a brain tumor we were shocked, scared and devastated. My husband and I just held each other and cried. We thought that cancer was a death sentence until a friend of ours found survivor stories on the internet. Wow - there is life after being diagnosed with cancer and that's when I began to fight for my life.

On January 7th, 2008, I had surgery to remove the tumor. My tumor was an Anaplastic Astrocytoma (grade 3) and was located on my left frontal lobe. It was about the size of a ping-pong ball. I was out of the hospital in two days and had a lot of determination to go home and start my healing journey.

I did radiation (for 6 weeks) and chemotherapy, Temodar (for 1 year). Zofran was given along with the Temodar and that was a life saver for nausea. I tolerated radiation well other than some fatigue and hair loss. My Radiation Oncologist said I might have some thinning and what I really got was the "medieval monk" look. Imagine the whole top of your head bald hair from the ears down. Wigs are a wonderful thing. Like I always or life, I choose LIFE.

There was never a dull moment for me. If I had an issue I could never be sure if what I was feeling was related to the brain tumor or if it would have been there anyway. I have body aches in my legs and arms, especially when I lay on my side. That could also be caused by my MS. You may always wonder (like I do), will a headache ever just be a headache, will a body ache ever just be a body ache or will it be cancer? I hope that one day this feeling will lessen.

My one year anniversary of my diagnosis (what I now call my new birth date) was December 6th, 2008. Later that month on December 29, I had a MRI scan scheduled. In the beginning of December I started having headaches which isn't real encouraging for someone with a brain tumor. After several anxiety filled weeks, we finally get the scan and everything looks good. We never thought we would love the words "stable" and "un-changed" as much as we do now. “Phew” just doesn't describe the relief we felt.

What got me through all of this? God, my husband, praying, visualization, meditation, support groups, reading survivor stories, a positive attitude, lots of laughter, friends, family and strangers which became friends. I can't tell you the importance of finding the right doctors that are knowledgeable AND encouraging. If you don't click with your doctors, find new ones. Don't hesitate to get a second (or third) opinion. Get involved with your own health plan. ASK questions- know what they're doing and why they're doing it.

Don't get me wrong, this journey hasn't been all about stress and worrying. The good outweighs all the stress and worry experienced. This was a wakeup call for us. We cherish every day now. Life is a precious gift and we realized you should never take it for granted.

The End? No...Now we go on living!