Learning about Brain Tumors
- Dave Whitford, 49, is a father of one who was eventually diagnosed with a brain tumor after doctors initially thought his symptoms were the result of an insect bite.
- Symptoms of brain tumors are often caused by increased pressure in the skull. Symptoms may include headache, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, balance problems, personality or behavior changes, seizures, drowsiness or even comas. It is important to note, however, that these symptoms are not exclusive to brain tumors.
- A harrowing health journey comes with a complex range of emotions. Even the most resilient and positive fighters know it’s important to let out the negative emotions too.
- One of our experts recommends talk therapy to help people cope with the change that a diagnosis brings to a person’s life.
It was Easter 2019 when Whitford suddenly grew very dizzy and started vomiting outside. He was rushed to the hospital the next day, but doctors thought he was just suffering from an inner ear infection caused by an insect bite.Read More
“They operated on the left side, so I have ringing in my ear which is quite annoying, especially when I’m trying to get to sleep,” he said. “It does affect people differently and it’s affected my short term memory so I forget a lot of things.
“I have no energy and I get cold really easily so I have to have special sheets to warm me up.”
He’s also had chemotherapy and radiotherapy, though his future remains uncertain. But that doesn’t mean he’s not making the most of his time right now – he celebrated his 50th birthday a year early, and he’s currently planning his dream vacation touring the United States.
“I’ve got 12 to 18 months to live but I might live longer, I just don’t know,” Whitford said.
Whitford is unable to work given the severity of his symptoms. If you’d like to donate to his GoFundMe page, you can click the link here.
What Are Brain Tumors?
According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), brain tumors account for 85 to 90 percent of all primary central nervous system (CNS) tumors. The central nervous system consists of the brain and spinal cord and acts as the main “processing center” for the nervous system. Normal function of the brain and spinal cord can become difficult if there’s a tumor present that puts pressure on or spreads into nearby normal tissue.
There are many different types of brain and spinal cord tumors. Some are more likely to spread into nearby parts of the brain or spinal cord than others. Slow-growing tumors may be considered benign (non-cancerous), but even these tumors can cause serious problems.
General Symptoms of Brain Tumors
Symptoms of brain tumors, as a whole, are often caused by increased pressure in the skull. This pressure can be caused by tumor growth, swelling in the brain or blockage of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), according to the American Cancer Society.
General symptoms may include the following:
- Blurred vision
- Balance problems
- Personality or behavior changes
- Drowsiness or even coma
Additionally, MD Anderson Cancer Center notes that changes in the ability to smell can be a sign of brain tumors, and, more specifically, “strange smells” can be a symptom of seizures which can result from brain tumors.
Still, it is important to note that these symptoms are not exclusive to brain tumors. You should always consult with your doctor if any health problems arise.
Processing the Emotions of a Health Journey
When it comes to a difficult health journey, just know that feeling sad or anxious or any negative emotion about the changes coming your way are very normal and understandable after hearing your diagnosis. There may be a lot of things out of your control, but it’s important to remember that you are not alone and there are resources and people out there who can provide support.
“Grief comes in waves,” Dr. Scott Irwin, a psychiatrist and director of supportive care services at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “They’re grieving the change in their life. The future they had imagined is now different.”
But taking care of your mental health should be a priority. Dr. Irwin stressed how helpful talk therapy could be when dealing with the mixed emotions. It’s important to reach out to your doctor, a therapist or support groups in your community if you feel like you’re struggling.
Ni Guttenfelder can attest to the benefits of therapy. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in October 2017 and quickly decided she needed a therapist to help process her feelings. Her suggestion is to seek a counselor you’re comfortable with and you trust.
“Initially I went to a session where I just cried and the counselor basically told me what I was feeling was normal and didn’t offer me any type of feedback. But I knew that I needed something more than that. Not just a crying session and a pat on my shoulder,” she told SurvivorNet in a previous interview. “What I have found is that it’s critical to find the right counselor, not just any counselor.”
Once she found a counselor she could truly open up to, Guttenfelder began to see some clarity.
“One of the things that my counselor has taught me from the very beginning that has helped me is the concept of acceptance,” she says. “Acceptance is a process. It’s like downloading a computer file in increments. Visualizing it in that way has really helped me.”
Her therapist also taught her how to manage the people in her life. She decided to look into her relationship with her father, for example, because he was resistant to the idea of her receiving chemotherapy.
“It makes it more of an uphill battle and a challenge because we’ll sometimes get into arguments about it,” she says. “My counselor would say, for my own benefit and health that it’s best to limit the time with others who may not be lifting me up during my treatment.”
In addition, don’t be afraid of feeling the negative emotions that come with a health battle. Anger, shame, fear, anxiety – they’re all to be expected.
Evelyn Reyes-Beato is a resilient woman who’s had to deal with the complexity of emotions that came with her colon cancer journey. She comes from a culture where health issues and feelings aren’t normally talked about, but she found that expressing her emotional pain was a big factor in helping her overall physical health.
“You have to let it out,” Reyes-Beato previously told SurvivorNet. “Your mental and your emotional help your physical get in line. If you keep all of the emotions in, the way I see it, is that stuff is going to eat you up inside and it’s not going to let you heal.”