Brain Cancer Made Me Feel Fortunate and Fearless

Ten years after my brain cancer diagnosis, I feel hopeful and content with my life.

I was diagnosed just after the holidays in 2012.I had been having some headaches and was stressed out.As someone who suffers from migraines, I attributed the headaches to work stress (our company was being bought by another company and I was shielding my staff from all the bad stuff). I was always in a bad mood and my divorced parents were discussing my behavior behind my back.

One morning, I got up and took the dog out, then went to give her fresh water and breakfast.I remember dumping out her old water and putting in fresh water, then I bent to put it down for her on her mat, but I woke up on the floor in a pool of spilled water.I thought “that’s weird” and did the same thing again, with the same results.

The dog was across the room as far from me as she could be, tilting her head and looking at me funny.I decided I needed medical attention, so I had my dad pick me up and go to urgent care since my regular doctor’s office was closed for the holiday.

I was given blood tests at the urgent care and advised to stay home for a few days.The following week, on Jan. 2, 2013, I fainted in the shower and thus began my cancer journey.

I had my dad take me to my regular doctor who knew me well, and she sent me for an MRI. I remember he was driving us back to his house after the MRI when she called and told me to turn around and go to the emergency room. I was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, a type of brain cancer.

I worked for my physician’s group, reporting to the chief operating officer. On the way to the ER, I called him and told him what was going on. He said he’d have the medical director meet us there (the office was across the street from the hospital ER). I don’t think he’s ever been speechless like that before.

My dad called my mom (she was living in Reno, Nevada at the time, helping with my brother’s kids).She flew in the next morning, and we stayed with my dad for the first month or so, when I got out of the hospital and had to go every day for radiation treatments.After that, she moved in with me about 20 minutes away, and we usually went to physician visits as a family (dad would meet us there).

I am fortunate in that I don’t really suffer pain from my cancer — I know that many people do. I even retained most of my faculties (the joke in our support group was “location, location, location”)

I also feel fortunate to have had the support group for patients with brain tumors, which we all went to for many years.The moderator arranged lectures sometimes or presentations, but we always had some open discussion as well. We became a family and celebrated or shared sorrow together.

Even before the support group sessions, when I was lying in my hospital bed getting annoyed if had to go to the bathroom and needed a nurse to help me (I was on seizure watch), I remember doing a lot of thinking about my life and my accomplishments, and what I’ve achieved and not achieved.We had a celebratory trip to Europe in June 2014 when I had gone back to work full time, then I had a recurrence in the fall of 2014 and had a Gamma Knife treatment.I was able to retire gracefully due to my diagnosis.

I’m coming up on 10 years since my diagnosis, now and I feel hopeful. Yes, I have a limp that throws me off balance when I walk so, I look drunk all the time and people always assume I need a wheelchair, but I try to walk when I can because I don’t want to succumb to the fatigue.That is really the main lasting effect of my cancer: fatigue. I am fortunate enough to have retired from a large company (the one that bought us) that offered disability insurance in addition to Medicare. I was high enough up in the organization to have a good salary, so I have enough to live comfortably now.

Once I was a few years out with clean MRIs, my doctors said I could move if I wanted to. I now live in Maryland in a nice suburban house with a yard for my dog and nice neighbors.

I am not a spiritual person, but I do feel thankful that I could understand what was happening to me and feel optimistic. I still get MRIs four times a year, but they’ve been stable for several years, and I take a couple of medications to keep me stable, but they don’t interfere with my life.

For whatever reason, I don’t experience the irrational fear that many people do when they think of living with cancer. Those long nights in the hospital and after I got out of the hospital, enduring the nausea of chemotherapy and the endless medical appointments gave me lots of time to make peace with where I am in my life. I realized that I fulfilled my career aspirations and am happy with my living situation. I have never aspired to notoriety, and I really enjoyed the last few years of work. I can’t really drink anymore, but that was never a big part of my life.

Now, I feel content to live my quiet life with my dog by my side.

This post was written and submitted by Amanda Weig. The article reflects the views of Amanda Weig and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.