Rediscovering Her Purpose
Sabine has always been a planner, in life and work. That all changed after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
A former international project manager in the field of Photonics and Life Science, she prided herself on tracking every detail, while keeping the big picture in mind.
That all changed when she was diagnosed with a grade III anaplastic astrocytoma. After her craniotomy in 2014 to remove a golf-ball-sized tumor from her right frontal lobe, her family and team of doctors quickly discovered that Sabine’s short-term memory was gone.
“I would just ask the same questions over and over. I couldn’t remember that I already asked something,” she said. “I even made the same doctor appointments over and over, and I couldn’t remember if I took my medication.”
Besides memory, the right frontal lobe governs cognitive skills such as problem solving, language, initiation, judgement, planning and prioritizing, along with personality. Sabine had to work with a cognitive therapist before she was able to regain her short-term memory.
“The most challenging part for me was to accept that my career was over, due to cognitive impairments. I loved my job, so I very much struggled with the fact that I had to find a new identity and purpose in life,” she reflects.
Coupled with this challenge, Sabine and her husband were also caring for their five-month-old daughter, Clara. “When I came home, I had to find my role again with being a mom,” Sabine recalls. “My husband was afraid I was going to have another seizure, so initially, he was next to me every time I held her.”
Because Sabine was administered steroids and opioids following her emergency brain surgery, they had to switch from breastfeeding to formula within a day. “We never went through the weaning part,” she says. “This was a very hard time, for me and our little girl.”
Luckily, Sabine was able to focus on her health and her family that first year. Sabine slept a lot and read everything she could about brain tumors. “I still have about 30 different books on brain cancer.”
While raising her daughter, who is now six years old, Sabine dedicates her time to the brain tumor community. Over the years, Sabine has served in a variety of volunteer roles with the American Brain Tumor Association, including the Breakthrough for Brain Tumors Run & Walk New York City planning committee, a research grant reviewer, patient panelist, speaker and presenter. She was also an inaugural member of the ABTA Volunteer Advisory Council.
“She knows how to get the job done—she’s one of the sharpest tools in the brain tumor community,” says Molly, her friend and fellow survivor. They met on a monthly global Twitter chat that Sabine co-organizes and facilitates with five other survivors and caregivers.
Molly and Sabine agreed to meet at the ABTA National Conference in 2017. They continue to engage the community via the #BTSM hashtag. “All ABTA volunteers, researchers and staff that I met over the past five years were incredibly encouraging, resourceful and helpful. I enjoy working alongside them, and some have become really close friends,” said Sabine.
“It’s the variety of backgrounds, experiences and stories that I value the most. Together, we can turn actions into results, celebrate milestones, and remember those that are no longer with us.”