Hero of Second Chances and Second Opinions

Hero of Second Chances and Second Opinions

ABTA Board Member Brian Olson’s pediatric brain tumor moves him to support the brain tumor community every step of the way.

Wrapping up a recent board meeting, Brian shakes hands with fellow board members and wishes them safe travels home.

A young man in his forties who always wears a kind smile and appears as healthy as one could be, one would never know that as a young boy he endured three brain surgeries.

Brian was just an ordinary 12-year-old kid who loved to play sports. On the cusp of entering his teenage years—a long-awaited milestone for every pre-teen—Brian was eager to “grow up,” yet his parents wished he would forever be their little boy.

What Brian and his parents didn’t know is that he would be forced to grow up faster than anyone could imagine. A visit with the eye doctor led to an emergency CT scan which led to an unexpected diagnosis of pilocytic astrocytoma—a non-cancerous brain tumor that appeared to be causing hemorrhaging in the brain. Within 23 hours, their lives were forced to change course without notice and without consensus on the path forward.

On the one hand, Brian and his family received good news—the tumor was noncancerous and located in an area of the brain that would likely allow for a successful resection. On the other hand, their local hospital was forcing them to make life-changing decisions in a matter of hours without having the opportunity to gather additional information or a second opinion.

Thanks to a family friend who was a medical professional, the family was referred to a medical institution that specialized in pediatric brain tumors. The second opinion yielded a different treatment plan, calling for an additional surgery to implant a shunt to relieve the swelling on Brian’s brain—a much different approach than the local hospital suggested. Confusion and anxiety engulfed the family, and yet, they forged ahead with the treatment plan of two brain surgeries—one to implant a shunt and one to remove the tumor.

Each time the family met with the neurosurgeon, they heard the words they’ve been praying for–the surgery was a success. One year later, Brian endured his last brain surgery to remove the shunt that doctors say saved his life.

With a second chance at life, Brian struggled with “survivor’s guilt” as he aged. “Survivor’s guilt was my shadow,” he mentioned. “I was so grateful to not only be alive, but living life. But at my core, I couldn’t understand why I survived and so many others have not.”

Time has a funny way of contributing to the healing process. Brian shares, “over time, the guilt slowly lifted, allowing me to embrace an opportunity to help others impacted by a brain tumor diagnosis.”

I want everyone to have a second chance.

Past Chair of the American Brain Tumor Association Board of Directors, Brian remains a member of the board to help ensure everyone impacted by a brain tumor diagnosis has access to accurate and trusted information to make informed decisions. “After all, I want everyone to have a second chance.”

Help the American Brain Tumor Association ensure everyone impacted by a brain tumor diagnosis gets a second chance. Your donation will help the ABTA continue to provide best-in-class information and support services during a critical time, when every minute counts.

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