Below Megan Patton tells the story of her 17 year brain tumor journey from diagnosis all the way to present day. Megan is a huge inspiration not only to those fighting this disease but also those raising awareness for this disease! She raised over $19,000 for the Chris Elliott Fund at the first annual Barn Bash 4 Brain Cancer Research raising vital funds as well as awareness for this disease. Save the date: Megan and her friends and family scheduled the 2nd Annual Barn Bash 4 Brain Cancer Research for August 15th 2015, in Oregon.
Feel free to leave a note for Megan in the comments section at the end of her story.
“I’m Grateful for My Migraines”
It’s not often that you can say, “I am grateful for my migraines!” But if not for the migraines I developed while living in Seattle, Washington in my late 20’s I would have never been directed by a neurologist to get an MRI to “rule anything else out.” It was only when the nurse called and asked that I come in the next morning to discuss the MRI results that I became a bit concerned. The next morning the neurologist informed me that “something” had showed up on my scan and that he had made me an appointment that afternoon with a neurosurgeon to discuss my options. This was all just a month before my wedding, and news that began my 17-year journey of fighting a cancerous brain tumor!
The “Spot”: Is it a bruise, cyst, or tumor?
After meeting with the neurosurgeon it was decided that I should get MRI’s every 3 months to keep tabs on “the spot” and go on anti-seizure medications immediately as a precaution. This “spot” could be a bruise, a cyst, or a tumor. I went to get a 2nd opinion. CEF was not around back in 1997. Oh how I wish it had. This neurosurgeon told me that he was 99% sure that “the spot” on my MRI was just a bruise, probably from a fall when I was young. Preferring his diagnosis rather than the idea that it was a tumor, I chose to skip my 6 and 9 month MRI’s. I didn’t believe it was a tumor; I didn’t have any symptoms, and my headaches went away with migraine medication. Almost a year later, at the 1-year check-up, I figured I would go back and get one last MRI. Well, “that spot” had changed. Change isn’t good and the original neurosurgeon asked me which day the following week I would like to have brain surgery. A half shaved head and 52 staples later, I had the diagnosis of an Oligodendriglioma Grade 1. What I didn’t realize until a few weeks later was that an “Oligodendriglioma” was Brain CANCER. Because of the low grade and slow growing nature of this tumor, I only followed up with MRI’s every 3 months. This time I followed through on that recommendation. Truly, I believed brain “cancer” was behind me and my whole life was ahead of me. I didn’t think much about the tumor’s reoccurrence other than what became my annual MRI. For 5 years, I enjoyed life in Seattle, gave birth to my beautiful daughter, continued raising my son, moved back to my hometown in Oregon, and basically went on with my life.
The Journey With Brain Cancer Begins
It wasn’t until the tumor recurred in 2003, that I feel my “journey with brain cancer” really began. I had returned to Seattle to have my annual MRI and wasn’t prepared to hear “Looks like the tumor is back.” Scared to death to go through another brain surgery, my family and I scrambled to figure out what to do. Do we stay in Seattle for a few weeks and have my surgeon up there perform the surgery again? How do we find a neurosurgeon to trust in Portland to perform the surgery? Again, all of this without the resource of CEF. I didn’t know what I was missing. I recovered quickly from my 2nd surgery and set about my daily life raising a teenager and a toddler. Pathology came back saying it looked “basically the same” but was now being called an Astrocytoma Grade 2. For the first time, some “genetic work” was done, sending my tumor sample off to the Cleveland Clinic.
The Chris Elliott Fund came along at just the right time.
I now needed more information and I needed to get involved. As I started trying to find out all I could about my tumor, I began reading stories about “survivors” and those fighting this illness and came across Chris’ story. Truly, at this point it was the first time I had heard of someone who had fought this disease. CEF came along at just the right time. I reached out to Dellann to gather information about the golf tournament CEF held and signed my husband and brother-in-law up to play and for my sister and I to attend. Attending the tournament and hearing about all that CEF was doing to help find a cure, encouraged us to start planning our own fundraiser to raise money for CEF. Just about the time we were ready to get something going, my annual MRI shows that the tumor has reared its ugly head yet again.
It is now 2006, just 3 years since my last surgery. I spend my birthday in the hospital recovering from brain surgery #3. Pathology came back and was still considered an Astrocytoma Grade 2. My neurosurgeon reports that he took a “bigger chunk” this time and seems pleased, although taking a “bigger chunk” of my brain stirs up some concerns, but life continues and life is good!
Surgery #4 – Not the news I wanted or was expecting to hear
January 2011 I have my annual MRI. Five years since my last surgery and I am excited to get over the 5-year hurdle, as I have yet to make it past the 5-year mark. Not so lucky! Surgery #4 is scheduled for the day after Valentine’s Day, again performed by Dr. Delashaw. This time pathology comes back and I am told the tumor is becoming “more aggressive” and is now believed to be an Anaplastic Astrocytoma Grade 3. At a Grade 4 my tumor is considered a Glioblastoma, the same type of tumor that killed Senator Kennedy, my neighbor’s father, my sister’s friend’s father, my Dad’s neighbor, my husband’s dear friend’s father, my best friend’s friend’s father, and Dellann’s first husband Chris, for which the foundation was formed. Not the news I wanted or was expecting to hear. Now was the time to hit this thing with 6 weeks of radiation and chemo! Check!
The New Normal and the Value of 2nd Opinions
Today, 3 years later, I still take Temodar, an oral form of chemotherapy, 5 days every month. My neuro-oncologist says I will be on it for the “rest of my life” or as long as my body tolerates it. With the help of CEF I have 2nd and 3rd opinions that question OHSU’s label of a grade 3, still labeling the tumor pathology as a grade 2, but so far I am tolerating my monthly chemo, so I stay the course!
I am Blessed!
I am blessed! Seventeen years and I am still fighting, still healthy, and still living, but more than anything wanting to be around to watch my children and grandchildren grow up! My husband, Jeff and I have a lot of life ahead of us and I have too many things I want to do and see, so finding a cure for brain cancer is an important thing in my life.