In June 2000 I was diagnosed with brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, and my life changed. I was 33 years old. My husband Matt and I had been married 10 years and our two boys were 1 and 3 years old. It started with me having a bad pain in the left side of my head. I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoe without it feeling like my head would explode. An MRI showed that my brain was hemorrhaging in my left temporal lobe and needed surgery ASAP to stop it. During surgery they found a cluster of veins and arteries leaking blood (called an Arterial Venal Malformation – AVM) and hidden within it was an acorn sized brain tumor – diagnosed as a Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM).
I was told I had less than a year to live. At that time, chemo and radiation possibly added only three months of life. The chemo sounded like it did more damage than good, so I decided not to take it. I went ahead with conformal radiation.
In 2004 I wanted to celebrate surviving the GBM for 4 years and decided to climb Mt. Shasta, a 4,300m elevation mountain. I made it to the peak! Then two weeks later my MRI showed the GBM was back, in the same location as before. This time I went into “awake” surgery, so they could map out my brain, avoiding damage to my language. They were able to remove the whole tumor, the size of a grape. Then I went onto the Temodar chemo, 5/23 schedule, 330mg. I stayed on it for about 1.5 years; then went off because my blood counts were getting lower and I wanted a break.
At that point my two boys were 5 and 8 years old, and I was happy to be alive. I looked and felt healthy and no one would guess I had been through 2 brain surgeries, radiation and chemo. Our family had so much fun camping, backpacking, mountain bike riding, and enjoying the outdoors!
Then in 2007, the GBM came back again, in the same location. I went back into surgery while awake. They were able to remove the pea sized tumor and a buffer around it the size of a golf ball, trying to get any hidden cancer cells. I came out of surgery #3 wonderful. I went back on Temodar chemo for 2 years, when the GBM came back a 3rd time. I was feeling good, so never would have guessed it returned.
March 2009 I had brain surgery #4. It was only the size of approx. 4mm. All seen tumor was removed. I recovered from surgery so fast, like I was a brain surgery pro! I was out camping with my family for spring break, only two weeks after surgery.
In March 2013 I had my fourth recurrence of the GBM. Again, it was tiny and on the perimeter of the tumor cavity. I went into surgery #5 and all seen tumor was removed. Again, I recovered quickly.
In May 2014 I had my fifth recurrence of the GBM. There were two tiny tumors, 4mm and 7mm in size, on the edge of the tumor cavity. I went through surgery #6 with Dr. Berger at UCSF. All seen tumor was removed. I recovered fast and was out having fun in life quickly. No one would guess I’ve been through SIX brain surgeries!!!
Chery’s Brain Cancer Battles
GBM 2000 left temporal lobe – Surgery complete resection OHSU / radiation UCSF
GBM 2004 – Surgery “awake” complete resection Dr. Berger UCSF / Temodar 5/23 for 1.5 years
GBM 2007 – Surgery “awake” complete resection Dr. Berger UCSF / Temodar /23 for 2 years
GBM 2009 – Surgery complete resection Dr. Berger UCSF
GBM 2013 – Surgery complete resection Dr. McDermott UCSF
GBM 2014 – Surgery complete resection Dr. Berger UCSF
GBM 2015 – Gamma Knife Radiation at UCSF