How a Brain Tumour Calmed my Fears

How a Brain Tumour Calmed my Fears

I don’t know how you are as an individual but I was probably like most. I went to school, got an education, got a job, got married (to the perfect woman, BTW), acquired a mortgage, had a couple of kids, etc., all the standard fair that most people acquire some time in their life.

The whole while I was doing this, I struggled with my dreams. I knew I was doing the responsible thing by making safe choices, it is what my parents and friends wanted and aspired to, it’s what anyone who wants security aspires to. I had always wanted to strike out on my own but didn’t want to disappoint the one’s closest to me if I failed. Then it happened……I found out I had a brain tumor.

It all started in the summer of 2009. I was on a vacation with my young family when I bumped my head pretty bad. Thinking I had a concussion, I went to my family doctor, who recommended I get a MRI just to be safe. Nothing prepared me for what my neurologist at the time was about to tell me…….

I was diagnosed with an Acoustic Neuroma on the right side of my head. It is also known as a Vestibular Schwannoma. You can read more about it here. It is a brain tumor that grows on your hearing and balance nerves. When mine was found, it was 1.8 cm at its largest dimension and was wrapped around the facial nerve. I was advised to monitor it with regular MRI’s.

Fast forward three years and the growth has doubled in size (actually it grew to 4.2 cm at its largest dimension) and is now crushing my 4th ventricle and pressing on my brain stem. I was able to get a consult with a neurosurgeon, He tells me that what I had was large to begin with and now that it has grown considerably. My prognosis does not look good.

You would think at this point I would be horrified and think the worst. Well, I was horrified but I did not think the worst. I needed to look up the neurosurgeon’s telephone number on the Internet for a follow-up appointment and I came across a surgeon who specialized in treating such tumors, using cutting edge techniques. That made me calm. God works in mysterious ways and I took this as a sign.

I went with my new found surgeon! He removed most of the tumor and carefully unraveled what was on my facial nerve. Other than losing the hearing on my right side, I came out relatively unscathed. I am almost 2 years recovered and I feel great!

What I learned during this journey is that life is too short and too unpredictable for you not to follow your dreams. You need to have the courage to change and the best time to do it is now! In life, we get so busy we forget to stop and smell the roses, live in the moment and experience what you are doing. Before you know it, life passes you by and you might have a few regrets.

I have always dreamed of running my own business doing something that I am passionate about. So I quit my Job and started a business. It has been something I have always wanted to do and with my new found calmness, I realized that the only thing stopping me was me.  I wanted to explore my passion for helping small to medium size business with all things IT. Now I stopped dreaming and started doing it! It took a brain tumor for me to realize this. It doesn’t have to be that way for you.

Has anything happened in your life that made you realize that life is short and unexpected and you should follow your dreams?

Photo by Jemel May

Dan Vespa

Dan Vespa is the founder of Sideshow Solutions, dedicated to helping small-to-medium size businesses with all things IT (Web design, Social Media Integration, Traditional IT Services). He hopes to inspire others to follow their vision of life.

Latest posts by Dan Vespa (see all)

17 Comments

  1. Dan…unbelievable story…especially considering that the same thing happened to me! I had just graduated with my BA in Psych, trying to follow my dreams. I was already 51-years-old. During that summer I had a surgery on my shoulder. The anesthesiologist thought he saw something in my throat and sent me for a CT scan. There was nothing in my throat, but at the top of the scan they saw a brain tumor. Mine was right by the brain stem. Two neurosurgeons told me it was inoperable. I found one who specialized, just like you, in Los Angeles, He took it out (most of it) and unraveled the facial, auditory, and optical nerves. I lost the hearing in my left side. I then got my masters degree while recovering (lying in bed!) and went on to become a psychotherapist in private practice. I feel “pretty good,” not great, but I am older. Some of it may be due to that! LOL. But I know that God intervened and that’s why I am able to do what I do today. Thanks for sharing! We have a lot in common!

    Reply
    • Linda,

      Thanks for reading!! We do have a lot in common. For instance, I have a BA in Psychology!

      Dan

      Reply
  2. I, too, had a brain tumor that was found accidentally. I had some hearing loss and after the initial tests a MRI was recommended. The Dr. called me at work and said, “it has nothing to do with your hearing, but you have a brain tumor” I asked how big, and he said brusquely, “you can discuss that with a neurosurgeon. I saw a surgeon and with only one arrow in his quiver, he said we will go in and snip it right out. I found that the tumor was by my left temple and was about the size of a ping pong ball. Leery of having my skull opened, I decided I wanted a second opinion. The 2nd surgeon had the same equipment, but said two things that were critical. 1) it is a benign menengioma and we know by its shape it isn’t cancerous. 2) you need to ask me what I would do if it were in MY head.” So I did. He recommended that I go to Oklahoma City, where he knew the Dr. in charge, and have a “gamma knife” procedure (radiation from 360 degrees that hits the tumor once each time, but the rest of the brain only once . I had the procedure in 2001 and followed up with annual MRIs for 5 years. I can’t say that it changed my life that much at the time. It took an act of God (an epic flood where we lost almost everything) to shake me free to pursue my dreams. Evidently, I needed more than one nudge.

    Reply
    • Marilyn,

      Thanks for reading! I am glad that everything turned out OK!

      Dan

      Reply
  3. This is a great story and something I can relate to. I was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor in 2008 and had surgery in 2009 to remove it. It has dramatically changed the way I see the world and what I value in life. Even though I’m still working a typical office job, I can see that there is so much more to life and not let the small things define me. I view the entire experience as a blessing that has helped my spiritual practice grow by leaps and bounds. Thank you for sharing your story and I wish you all the best!

    Reply
    • Zach,

      I found that the experience has made me grown in my spirituality too. Thank for sharing!

      Dan

      Reply
  4. Dan,

    Thanks for sharing such an incredible story. This journey touches my heart. We don’t know how long we have. I am spending time with a friend who has weeks to months to live. It reminds me of my own vulnerability and mortality. Time marches on and either I will live a full life or I will live a life of “if only.”

    Reply
    • Pamela,

      Thank for reading. I am glad you are cherishing every moment you can with your friend. It really puts things in perspective.

      Dan

      Reply
  5. Hi Dan,
    Thank you for sharing your story.
    It`s Friday the thirteenth, nine o`clock waiting to see a g.p to receive my second test results from a neck lump, The Doctor was Double booked so I read your story, funny that ,I`m now superstitious , yes the test results were not the one I wanted.
    Live every day as best you may.
    Love to all.

    Reply
  6. Dan, a story of such incredible courage! Wishing you good health and lots of success.
    Hope I can muster up the determination and persistence to achieve my dreams too!

    Reply
  7. Thank you Dan for sharing, as well as all the others who commented that have similar stories. Blessings and thank you to all of you!

    I have been very healthy and it appears that my role is to be caregiver for those who’s journey has a different set of trials. This has taught me to follow my dreams and live life with gusto.

    Reply
  8. It’s really a great of u for motivating us!.. there’s this one thing i wanna become a lawyer but i am first securing a really good professional carrier but i am not at all feeling motivated towards it and i think i will mess things more up and after already paying fees for this carrier i can’t imagine to go and tell my parents that i am leaving it all what i am concerned is due to this i don’t want to loose my dream of becoming a lawyer

    Reply
  9. so many peole face a disability and let it stop them. I want to let peole know that like you they can overcome what seems to be stopping them. I am aphysician who lost his eye sight.

    Reply
  10. Dan,

    So glad that you were able to recover from your tumor. These major things that happen in our life, do give us time to step back and look at where we are headed. Finding our dreams and doing what we need to start living them is so important.

    Luckily I had a defining moment in my life when I was young and started living my dreams by changing what I needed then. Then later, I had whole new different dreams, yet it did take another jolt to get me to realize that. That jolt was not as dramatic though.

    Wouldn’t it be great if we all just knew to take enough time with ourselves to figure us out enough to know when we need to change rather than needing some jolt?

    Reply
  11. Dan,
    Thank you for your article and I am not in the same boat you are with regards to some growth in your body. But I did have a bad year where I got into a life altering car accident, but otherwise, no broken bones but just a concussion. I have been planning to get my Masters degree but HAVE BEEN HESITATING. I have made up my mind a few days ago that I will do it, but for the life of me, I know I might hesitate again because I am a chronic thinking warrior(worrier). Having gone through what I been through had taken the wind out of my sail temporarily and really been working hard to get that confidence back once more. I look back at the story of Job from the Bible, even though I will be the first to say I am not religious, but it sure is a life lesson worth reflecting on.

    I definitely will appreciate a bit of a constructive push every now and then.Reading your article is giving me a nudge to pursue my dreams once more.

    Reply
  12. Great story along with one great quote that everybody should live by; life being too short and too unpredictable. Pretty much if you don’t take action on a goal you have, now, then you’ll never know how it could of gone.

    I’m 25 and I found out I had a brain tumor when I was 11. It was my first seizure triggered by temperature change. I got the MRI and cat scan and that’s when they found a brain tumor behind my left ear. Size of a thumbnail they say.

    I was young at the time. It was tough, to really understand. Epilepsy hit me hard all caused by the brain tumor. The doctors said it’s too risky to operate on, possibility of losing the right side of my body because of how close it is to the surrounding nerves. I always had a monthly MRI which lead to only one every three months because of how well I was doing and to their knowledge that everything was stable. I could go on and on about how hard going to school was. I had several seizures throughout my high school days. Always had nasty migraines too.

    But, I never ever gave up on living a normal life. That sounds boring, but with the condition I am a bit different in ways. But hey, we all are a little different in our own ways aren’t we.

    I’m now on my sixth epilepsy medication that is finally working well for me. I also found medicine myself. The greenery grown from earths ground, marijuana. It helps my daily migraines, puts me in a happy mood.

    I was always the worker. Had my slacker moments (don’t we all). I just recently opened up my own web design company. I’m pursuing dreams of my own, running my own company. I want to be my own boss. One life everybody. Make it real, make it yours.

    I do live day by day but not without thinking will there be a tomorrow. That is a major motivation booster. You can live by words but by action is even better.

    Thanks for all of these great stories. I randomly stumbled upon it and it made me think big. Bigger!

    Best wishes to everybody ahead in their journey. Make things happen!

    Reply
  13. Hi Dan,

    Mine happened when I was diagnosed with discoid lupus during my secondary school days. I realized that there was no cure for this condition and I can only take medication or apply cream to control it.

    I was very disappointed for a period of time because I realized that I cannot go outdoors to enjoy sports anymore. In fact, I was ridiculed by my school mates when I had to carry an umbrella when I am out in the sun. I kept thinking why did this happened to me?

    Then one day, I realized that I should use this as an opportunity to give hope to other lupus patients that they can still live life as per normal and go on to achieve what they want in life by being successful in my own business.

    Fast forward several years now, I am happy to say that my condition is under control and I am living my life to the fullest everyday regardless of what happens.

    Reply

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