Hello everyone! My name is Chris Haught, and I assume you’re visiting this page either because you know me or perhaps because you are interested in my fight against cancer. For those of you who don't know me, I am a 34-year-old man who experienced quite a lot last year. Here’s my story…
In April 2016, I moved to Colorado and started a new life adventure with my wife, Erin and our dog, Stoli. We are both originally from Annapolis, Maryland and decided to give it a go in Denver, Colorado because…well, just because we were up for a new adventure. Erin landed a job as a toddler Montessori teacher at a school in Denver and I began work for a man who owns an Engineering Company that does accident reconstruction tests (Gilbert Engineering).
Moving on to why I have a page on Caring Bridge. Last fall I started feeling a bit odd. I was feeling pretty low but I chalked it up to being homesick and unhappy with our apartment and its location. I love being around the water having grown up on the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland. There's not a whole lot of water here in Colorado, at least not what I'm used to. I have promised myself I would venture into the mountains to seek good trout fishing, but I have not yet made the expedition. In December, 2016 and into January of 2017 I started experiencing some equilibrium issues. A couple times a week I would lose my balance and fall over. These episodes started to increase over time. I also started to feel vibrations in my head, almost as if a large truck was idling right outside my window.
Then it all came to a front on March 18, 2017. It was Erin's birthday and we were celebrating with Erin's sister, Kate and her boyfriend, T.J. We went on a wine tasting around the Denver area. As the day progressed I started to have trouble standing up straight. This progressed into me stumbling and losing my balance (with hardly any alcohol consumption). After much convincing, I went to the Emergency Room and had CT scans done. These scans detected a condition called hydrocephalus, which is the swelling of the ventricles in my brain. The ventricles of the brain hold excess cerebral spinal fluid.
Two days later, on March 20, I had an MRI scan done. Erin and I met with a neurosurgeon, Dr. Parker. He explained that the MRI revealed a mass on my thalamus. He seemed to think that it was a slow growing tumor and could be taken care of via surgery and chemo. On March 23 I underwent brain surgery to relieve the pressure caused by the hydrocephalus and to also get a biopsy of the mass. The surgery accomplished the objectives. Basically, Dr. Parker drilled into my skull and inserted tubes into the ventricles in my brain and those tubes connect to a shunt that now regulates the fluid in my ventricles and relieves any pressure. Dr. Parker also successfully obtained a tissue sample of the tumor and sent the tissue for pathology tests.
I spent 2½ days in the ICU. Quite uncomfortably I might add. I was hooked up to many tubes and cables and couldn't move a whole lot. However, because the surgery was a success, I accepted the discomfort as a small concession.
My hospital had a pet therapy program. I was asked if I would like to meet with a dog and being a dog lover I jumped at the chance. I had a choice between two pugs or a newfoundland. This was a no brainer for me as I have my own large dog, a golden retriever named Stoli. I immediately requested the newfoundland and moments later a big, soft, brown haired newfoundland came walking into the room. They really are gentle giants. There is a picture of this visit under the photos link. This program was very therapeutic for me; having a gentle dog to pet had such a positive effect on me. It was a great diversion from the stress and anxiety that came with being in the hospital. I felt more like myself, not to mention eager to get home to Stoli after the visit.
After some more rest and recuperation in the ICU, I walked around a little for some physical therapy. The doctors decided I was ready to return home. I got ready to go and they took me by wheelchair down to the lobby for my departure. Before I reached the elevator, I became nauseous and threw up in a trash can. In the ER observation room downstairs, I became sick again. This concerned the triage nurse who contacted some of my nurses back upstairs. Consequently, I couldn’t go home. I was bummed out but I understood their concern. It turned out after a CT scan, that they thought there was a trace of residual blood in the fluid of my brain—anything that’s “not supposed to be there” can cause these symptoms. They were confident that this would dissipate in a short period of time.
The next morning after breakfast, I had proven my worthiness of being physically stable enough to go home, so I was discharged. Once back home, Erin and my Mom set up the apartment for comfort. I was very lucky to have my Mom in town. She helped with dog walking, food preparation, and general morale. I was feeling better but still a bit loopy due to the obvious recent brain surgery but also because of my anti-seizure medication. It is customary to take such medication after brain surgery because of the increased possibility of seizures.
The next few days went by mainly consisting of rest, movie watching, veggie eating, and short dog walks. My Mom had to leave and return to her daily life back in Maryland but Erin conveniently had off the week following my surgery. So the next thing to wait for was the results of the biopsy.
In the meantime, Erin immediately fell into the role of supervising my diet, nutrition, and my schedule. I don’t know what I’d do without her! She is so knowledgeable about diets and nutrition—from the day I came home she put me on a plant-based diet, and she researched what supplements and herbs would be beneficial for a cancer patient. Everyday before she left for work, she would prepare a blender full of healthy fruits, veggies, herbs and spices, etc. that I would blend up for my lunch smoothie. She counted out supplements to take and when to take them; then she came home to fix me a healthy dinner! She also told me what I couldn’t take—no more cigarettes, sugar, sodas, processed foods, and very limited portions of meat. I am so very fortunate to have her as my wife—she is my rock, too!
I received a call from Dr. Parker a couple weeks after the surgery—it was a long wait! He reported that the tumor was classified as a grade 4 midline glioma. He clarified that it wasn't considered a glioblastoma but it was a grade 4. Brain cancers are apparently rated in grades while other cancers are called stages. So grade 4 is considered the worst (or most aggressive). It resides on my thalamus at the top of my brainstem, which is why it is called a midline glioma.
This isn't exactly what I wanted to hear but he also explained that based on what he saw during surgery it didn't seem to be behaving like a grade 4; meaning that there wasn't a large increase in blood vessels surrounding the tumor. Tumors only grow when they have a blood supply. He also explained that it seemed to be a primary tumor, meaning it had not metastasized from another area in my body; that was positive news! And just to add...the tumor is what caused the hydrocephalus. The tumor had grown large enough to physically block the draining of cerebral spinal fluid from my ventricles. I had a lot to think about. But I was definitely feeling better than I had before the surgery; due to the shunt relieving the pressure of the hydrocephalus—that diagnosis eventually disappeared!
Well, it seems I have gotten a bit long winded and run out of space on this section of the website. If you would like to read on, I have continued in the Journal Section of the website, which I believe you can see below. Also...I know many of you have asked how you can help and for that I am grateful. There is a link at the top of this page labeled "Ways to Help." There you can find a link to a gofundme page and also some links to other sites that I have found useful and interesting.