One Year Ago…

…in a pumpkin patch far, far away…I was feeling cranky and blue. Distant, perhaps in a fog of mood. It was warm, much like today will be.

Everything changed that day. I had a seizure and got to ride in an ambulance. I was told I had a mass in my brain and that I needed surgery as soon as possible to save my life. I later found out I had stage four brain cancer.

As much as I don’t remember of that day and the next, and the next…I remember very clearly waking up in that ambulance to see the EMT smiling and talking to me with a reassuring voice that stopped the panic before it could even begin. I remember the ER doctor holding my hand and sitting close while she told me about the beast in my brain. I remember the frightened looks on my kids faces as they walked in to see me before they left for home. I remember my husband’s face as he fought to remain calm while he asked all of the questions I would never have thought to ask. I remember the kindness of the nurses and doctors as I arrived at Stanford and settled in for a multitude of scans and tests while I waited for a craniotomy.

It seems a strange anniversary to celebrate, but here I am…alive and functioning. I’ve had some setbacks, but to think where I could be: the risks and potential disabilities as a side effect of brain surgery, the physical damage of chemo and radiation, the financial devastation if we didn’t have insurance, the psychological trauma if we didn’t have such loving friends and family… I could be dead. But I’m not.

As hard as this past year has been, I feel blessed to be here. To have the time to cherish my family, to teach my kids critical life skills and watch them do the things they love – like play guitar and dance, to hold my husband’s hand as we walk down the street, to read yet another great book. All things easy to take for granted when you’re not counting every day as one more chance.

The typical survival rate for someone with a Glioblastoma Multiforme is dismal. As my neurosurgeon told me ‘Now we know HOW you’re going to die, we just don’t know WHEN.’ Well, so far, I’m beating the worst of the odds. The beast is locked away for now and I have a team of doctors and specialists who are the best at what they do. I am lucky to live so close to Stanford and to know that my doctors work together to give me the best care possible. I am lucky to qualify for a clinical trial that just may help make my survival legendary – along with so many other people who will discover they have a GBM.

BUT – the options for brain tumor patients are terrifyingly few. I’ve been lucky so far, but so many have been lost because research into new treatments for brain tumors is dramatically underfunded. Brain tumors are mysterious and complex – just like the brain itself. Unlike so many other cancers, people don’t know about them until they or someone they know and love discovers they have one. Awareness is shockingly low.

There are no known causes and often people have no knowledge they have a tumor until it reaches a large size. I had no significant symptoms until I had a grand mal seizure in a pumpkin patch in front of my children and 300 or so strangers. There are 120 different types of tumors and depending on the location in the brain, even a benign tumor can be devastating to physical, cognitive or psychological abilities. Over 600,000 people in US are living with a primary brain tumor and over 28,000 children.

Help me celebrate this first of what I hope will be many survival anniversaries by donating to the National Brain Tumor Society – an organization committed to raising awareness, advocating for and funding research to help improve treatment options and increase the survival rates of brain tumor patients. My friends and family will be walking on October 26 in the Silicon Valley Brain Tumor Walk – join Team EveryDayLeft Right Left in our march to find a cure. Help us all to become legendary in our survival.

Thank you to everyone who has helped feed, drive, babysit, and care for my family in so many countless other ways this past year. You are loved and appreciated in ways we could never express.

13 thoughts on “One Year Ago…

  1. Just donated $100 through Cisco and you will get $100 from “matching”. Hope you can find a way to have that $200 show up in your total, Karyn.

    Hugs; Jeannie

  2. Once again, beautifully expressed, Karyn. You describe so well how it feels to be diagnosed with GBM. My experience in being told was extremely similar to your own. Congratulations on your 1-year anniversary. Here’s to many more! 🙂

  3. As usual, beautifully written, Karyn. And, as usual, brought on the tears. BUT, this time they are tears of thanks for the one year anniversary and many, many, many more to come.

  4. Karyn,
    I am a friend of one of your friends, Rachelle Vogler. I wish you many many more anniversaries, filled with love, family, friends, and GOOD HEALTH!

  5. Sorry you and your family even had to have the experience but thankful you are here to write about it a year later! Looking forward to MANY more anniversaries and blog entries. We have a child with Epilepsy. We always keep hearing…”there’s more we “don’t” know about the brain than we “do” know – and we “do” know quite a lot…”. We’re waiting for the day that neurologists and epileptologists know more than they don’t know. Hope our small donation helps! Good luck on the walk. Take good care of yourself!

  6. Anniversaries of these sorts are also time to celebrate you and your family’s particular
    Strengths and growth. I hope year two is one of “cashing in” of everything you’ve come to learn this past year, and finds you with more time free of worry.

    • It is wonderful for your family and our grandchildren to have you writing your feelings down about what has transpired over this last year. It truly is something to cherish and the children will read them when the time is right.
      Karen, it is a time to celebrate how far you have come. We are blessed to have you in our lives and we pray that we will be CELEBRATING KARYN for many more years. Love you! Gale

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