Brain Cancer Survivor
Peter was a high-powered executive at a major utility company. To relax, he restored old wooden boats. One step in the restoration was striping the old paint with a powerful solvent. When Peter began to suffer from headaches, he was not particularly worried, and chalked it up to spring allergies and to breathing the fumes from the paint remover.
However, some peculiar things happened at work. One day he forgot to attend an important meeting. A couple of days later, he conducted a seminar at a location he had been to many times before. After the seminar, Peter drove down the driveway. At the bottom, he had no idea which way to turn. He does not know how long he sat there. Was it 10 seconds, or an hour? When he again became aware of his surroundings, he was terrified. His fiancée, Diane, was a nurse in a hospital administrative position. When he told her what had occurred, she immediately arranged for him to see a neurologist.
The neurologist was certain of one thing: this was not the result of fumes or allergies. He guessed it was either a tumor or a blood vessel in Peter's brain. He ordered an MRI and had Peter make an appointment with a surgeon to review the results of the MRI the following week. The MRI showed that Peter had a brain tumor the size of a robin's egg, a Glioblastoma Multiforme IV. This is considered to be the most aggressive and deadly form of brain tumor.
Without surgery he had no more than three months to live. The doctor felt that with successful surgery, Peter might live for six months. Peter's life was collapsing right in front of him. His life was planned: he was going to work until he was 59 and then retire. He wanted to marry his fiancée and attend his son's wedding, which was a week away. He did not have time for cancer.
Peter said he needed a week. He promised to come in for surgery the following Tuesday, but he had to get his life in order first. The surgeon reluctantly agreed and ordered steroids and anti-seizure drugs to keep Peter functioning for the week. Over the next few days Peter met with his attorney to get his affairs in order, and he and Diane chose rings, planned their wedding, were married in the hospital chapel and had a reception for 60 people. He went to Boston to be best man at his son's wedding. As he anticipated the surgery, Peter's anxiety was overpowering but he took comfort knowing that should the surgery not go well and he was incapacitated, Diane, a medical professional, would be making choices for him.
On Tuesday he reported to the hospital for brain surgery. Peter asked that he be given his pre-surgical medication as soon as he was admitted. He didn't want to go through the anxiety of waiting for the surgery to begin. The next thing he knew he was waking up in a large room. The first person he saw was a nurse, and she was smiling at him! She examined him and asked a lot of questions: What's your name? Where do you live? Who is the President? The reality slowly dawned on Peter; the operation was over and he was alive. He cried. He had not thought he would ever wake up again.
The surgery had gone extremely well and the doctors felt that radiation would improve the prognosis even more. When he was warned that there could be some memory loss two years after radiation, Peter didn't worry because he knew that he wouldn't be alive in two years. After completing radiation, the doctors recommended chemotherapy. Peter balked. Why suffer through chemo if he were dying? The doctors explained that because he was doing so well, the addition of chemotherapy would help him live longer. Peter focused on getting through treatment. He was so focused that when he finished the chemotherapy he was surprised to realize that 46 weeks had passed since his surgery. It was almost a year and he was not dead. In fact, his last two MRI's had been negative.
Peter was alive and he decided that his remaining time was going to be very different from what his life had been. He retired from his job and looked for volunteer opportunities to help others. He had been comforted by a cancer survivor at the hospital where he was treated, so he began counseling and helping others at that cancer center. He became very active in his church. He joined a support group and became active in brain tumor organizations. He looked for anything he could do to help others.
It was at the Brain Tumor Society that Peter heard about Cancer Hope Network. After being comforted by a cancer survivor himself, it seemed a perfect match. He went through the training and became a Cancer Hope Network support volunteer. Now Peter says Cancer Hope Network's personal, one-to-one contact with patients is one of the most beautiful of his volunteer experiences. Peter's philosophy is, "Having it all is not what it is all about; enjoying what you have is," and Peter gets his joy from helping others.
Peter's life since his treatment has been eventful. He and Diane have traveled extensively, including a trip to France. Peter's surgeon says that with a glioblastoma it is not a case of "if" the cancer will come back but "when" it will come back. However, he is hopeful about treatment advances since his initial diagnosis. He has learned to cope with the anxiety surrounding follow up MRIs and blood work. He says, "I have learned how to live with this tumor and not worry about it every day. I have found my personal niche in life and am enjoying every day of it, and of course my faith and prayers are always on the increase."