I Had Brain Surgery What’s Your Excuse Brain Cancer Awareness Shirt, hoodie, tank top

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I Had Brain Surgery What’s Your Excuse Brain Cancer Awareness Shirt, hoodie, tank top

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I Had Brain Surgery What’s Your Excuse Brain Cancer Awareness Shirt, hoodie, tank top

I was at a high point in my career in April 2003, having played a key role in our successful effort to analyze and put together the SARS coronavirus genome. I had stayed up past 4 a.M. On my own in the lab on a Friday night, working with and analyzing the data with the hope of completing the assembly of the genome sequence. The following day, we announced our findings, which made worldwide headlines. Life was good.

Ten months later, on February 23, 2004, I collapsed in a grand mal seizure and was subsequently diagnosed with a very serious form of brain cancer — glioblastoma (GBM). I had to deal with the fact that I had a cancer with an average survival of 13-15 months (if treated).

I prayed. I tried to come up with reasons why I was meant to survive, that I have a purpose in this world. I tried to create an excuse as to why I got the cancer. I meditated and envisioned the cancer disappearing and I told myself that the cancer was gone. I also started to notice the beauty all around me.

Surgery to remove the tumor was a risky procedure given its deep location in my brain, so I was given only chemotherapy and radiation. The tumor shrunk.

However, while planning to return to work, I had a recurrence in late 2005. Because this cancer is very heterogeneous — any cells initially resistant to chemotherapy have multiplied — the new tumor is genetically different than the one at diagnosis and the original chemotherapy rarely works a second time with GBM. Therefore, I was placed on a clinical trial drug that failed miserably.

In the meantime, I ran a marathon in Iceland and married someone whom I met during treatment. I went back on the chemo in the first eight months of 2006 as a last measure of hope that it would work. It did. I’ve been clear of the cancer since September 2006.

I returned to work and continued researching various cancers including brain cancer (diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas and oligodendroglioma). I wrote and published a piece of software to analyze RNA sequence data and during this time I worked hard in various capacities to contribute back to the brain cancer community, such as coordinating a walk/run where I met and was inspired by other patients with brain cancer.

 

I Had Brain Surgery What’s Your Excuse Brain Cancer Awareness Shirt, hoodie, tank top
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