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John’s Story

I'm an active duty AF member working in procurement/contracting. I am a brain tumor (anaplastic astrocytoma) survivor. When I'm not working I am a husband, father of two of the sweetest kids you'll ever meet and a musician. I play guitar and bass in a contemporary worship band at my church.

In August 2005 I visited my military family practice physician complaining of chronic sinus issues and odd tingling sensations on the left side of my face. I had similar issues for years prior and was told it was just common allergies. The physician believed I was having an episode of Bell's Palsy but scheduled me for a CT scan "just to be sure" I didn't have any tumors or cysts in my sinuses. They called me back to the clinic the very day of my CT scan due to a suspicious "spot" discovered on my right temporal lobe. They scheduled me for an MRI the following day which confirmed I had a 2.8 lesion which was, in the doctor’s words, “most likely a low-grade glioma.” They sent me to a military neurosurgeon at Wilford Hall in San Antonio/>/>. Due to the fact that I appeared to be symptom free, the neurosurgeon recommended that we take a "wait and see" approach which would consist of follow-up MRIs every 6 months for 1 year and yearly thereafter if there was no change. After one year of scans he cleared me medically...he actually stated that the mass had not changed (I have since discovered from reviewing my radiology reports that there were some changes to the mass throughout the year...and some edema as well...I must have been in denial...I don't know why my primary care physician and the neurosurgeon failed to notice this...perhaps I was in denial...I still appeared asymptomatic so?). Following a year of scans, the neurosurgeon at Wilford Hall stated that this was probably a scar from when I was born. We all agreed that I could receive annual scan for 5 years. I deployed to Iraq/>/> approx 1 month following this consult (Sept 2006). While in Iraq/>/> I began having sensory/perception issues. I can best describe them as a déjà vu feeling brought on by auditory stimuli. I was having these issues approximately 2-15 times per day which lasted about 10-15 seconds. I initially thought I was having anxiety attacks (I was in Iraq/>/> where insurgents were firing mortars at our base daily.) I managed to cruise through the weirdness, finish my tour honorably and I returned home in February '07. After decompressing for a couple of weeks I still felt that something was out of sorts so I contacted my physician who sent me for an MRI the very next day. He contacted me the afternoon of the MRI to tell me that the mass had increased in size from 2.8cm to 4cm. His demeanor on the phone was as if I would be frightened or saddened by the news. I was actually relieved that my issues were not make-believe/anxiety. The doctor wanted to send me immediately (next day) back to the neurosurgeon in San Antonia. My children go to school…there's more logistic hurdles to overcome than just getting up and driving out to San Antonio/>/>. Anyhow, I told the doctor that I was not comfortable just driving blindly out to San Antonio/>/> without a telephone consult with the neurosurgeon first. My doctor reluctantly agreed. I could sense from his tone of voice that he was very upset with me. I imagine he believed I was about to die from this issue. Well, my physician and I both attempted to set up a voice consultation with the neurosurgeon to no avail. Finally, I received a referral to see a civilian neurosurgeon in Lubbock/>, Texas/> (1-1/2 hour drive from Clovis/>/>). I don't actually know who put this referral in for me (divine intervention?)…no one from my clinic called me…I discovered the referral on my HMO's (Tri-west) website. After verifying that I was authorized to see this surgeon, my wife and I gathered up all of my prints and radiology reports and headed to Lubbock/>/>. After looking at my prints, this neurosurgeon stated that I should have never deployed to Iraq/>/> and that most of the growth in the mass occurred in the 1st year after it's discovery. He stated that this was definitively a tumor, “most likely a low-grade glioma (astrocytoma).” The tumor was not just in my right temporal lobe but extended around the sylvian fissure into my insula anteriorily. He told me that he could not perform the surgery with his intracranial navigation equipment and he recommended against radiation/gamma knife. His rationale was that I am too young and the tumor looks to be too low grade for such aggressive treatments. Additionally, he stated that the radiation could cause me problems later in life. Finally, he stated that a biopsy was needed but that he preferred that the biopsy be performed at the center I would be getting treatment at (possibly during resection). The Lubbock Neurosurgeon also stated that my déjà vu issues were classic signs of seizures of the insula/temporal lobe. He referred me to a neurologist who prescribed Lamictal to control my seizures. Continued in my journal...

Latest Journal Update


I just returned from M.D. Anderson and I have received another stable report...I am truely blessed. This particular trip was the most spiritually humbling I have ever experienced. The testamonies I heard from fellow cancer suvivors was so inspiring. There was a moment in the MRI waiting area where the holy spirit was present...I felt so close to God. I know that God works through all of us, whether we are aware of it or not...even when we don't give him credit, He is working. On this cancer journey of pains, fears and obstacles...the people we meet who share stories and the selfless community compassion that has been brought to the forefront have made this a blessing. Remember that book and saying, "Don't sweat the small stuff?" Well...there's a lot of folk among us who are sweating over some pretty insignificant's nothing...we should live lightly and love strongly.

God bless,