Denver 2013 Ambassador Highlight
Randy Ames - 1 Year Survivor
On Christmas Eve of 2011, Randy spent his time enjoying the holiday season. But, seconds after our family phot was taken in front of a Christmas tree, Randy's life took a spin in another direction. A direction quicker than a camera's flash, leaving his life to never be the same. Randy had a seizure seconds after a family photo was taken with his wife and two boys. Doctor's had discovered a small mass in his brain. He was scheduled to have brain surgery the day after Christmas. On January 10th, Randy had been diagnosed with one of the deadliest forms of brain cancer, known as, a Glio-Blastoma-Multiforma (GMB). Randy's surgery was successful in removing the entire mass. He has received 30 radiation treatments and continues his bi-monthly chemotherapy. His faithful courage and calming approach on his new "challenge" as our family calls it, has been inspiring and positively contagious to everyone who loves and knows him. Randy's MRI scans continue to show no tumor growth of any sorts and he strives each day to make a positive impact with everyone he is in contact with. He rejoined his softball teammates for this fall's season league and is looking forward to Colorado's ski season, and enjoying his life to the fullest with his family and friends.
Randy got to walk the Survivor Walk at the "Lacrosse out Cancer" Mammoth game on Feb 2nd, 2013
Ame's Family Christmas 2011
Miles For Hope Denver 2012 5k Run/Walk
Angela Shaffer - 10 Year Survivor
At the age of 19, Angela started to experience frequent headaches. After many tests and a cat scan, we were told that Angela had a brain tumor. A biopsy was done and it was determined that the type of tumor Angela had was a pylocytic astrocytoma. It was decided that surgery had to be done so the doctors successfully removed a majority of the tumor. The remainder of the tumor was wrapped around Angela's brain and if they tried to remove it, it would result in paralysis. Considering the situation, the doctors thought Angela would be a good candidate for the Novalis Treatment, which is a one-time high dose of radiation. Ironically, this procedure had only been in the state of South Dakota for three months which a family friend, that grew up in the Shaffer's hometown, spear headed the fundraiser to bring this treatment to the state. After weeks of therapy to regain her strength and balance and thirty-one days in the hospital, Angela was released from the hospital to go home. She then spent three months at home until the doctors decided she was strong enough to go back to college to continue pursuing her dream to become a nurse. Angela's experience in the hospital and the care she received from her nurses, urged her to become the caring nurse she is today.
Mom and dad always knew that Angela would be a fighter due to the fact that she was born premature and weighing one pound 14 ounces and then 19 years later enduring brain surgery. If you met Angela on the street, you would never know the complications she has went through due to the fact that she is healthy and well. She is staying strong and only has to have an MRI once every two years to ensure the tumor has not reappeared.
We, as a family, have decided to run 3.1 miles in reference to the 31 days that Angela spent in the hospital. Help us raise money to go towards other families that are currently experiencing what we all did nine years ago.
Kim Lorenzo-St. John - 12 Year Survivor
Paraganglioma/Glomus: Rare & typically benign tumor which can be vastly destructive and has a high recurrence rate. The tumor destroyed my facial nerve as well as hearing nerves and parts.
January 2001: During a routine exam, I found out I was pregnant. Over the previous year or so, I had continuous issues such as ear pain, tinnitus, headaches, etc. One morning, I woke up and the left side of my face was completely paralyzed.
July 2001: Yes, I saw doctors prior to this time frame but they were not helpful. I was finally able to find a doctor who took the time to properly assess my situation and research what test options were available for a pregnant woman.
August 2, 2001: They were only able to get a few MRI scans due to my daughter's placement in the womb. I was told they would get with my doctor to see if the scans were adequate. As I was leaving, the receptionist said the radiologist needed to speak with me. I figured maybe they wanted to try some more scans. I was wrong. As I listened to them tell me I had a brain tumor, I was in shock and disbelief. All I could think about was my daughter.
August 6, 2001: My OB doctor immediately got in contact with my ENT specialist and a high risk OB specialist. They all decided that in order to have a controlled situation with my daughter, it was best that I be admitted into the hospital immediately so they could inject me with steroids to strengthen her lungs and induce labor by the end of the week. I was told to expect her to be very small and potentially be in the hospital anywhere from a month to a few months.
August 10, 2001: Cassidy, the beautiful angel who saved my life was born 18 inches long and 5 lbs, 3 oz. She was healthy and it surprised everyone! The other bonus in this part of the story: I didn't have to endure the final stages of pregnancy weight gain (my total pregnancy weight gain was 11lbs) and they didn't make me wait for an epidural - it was put in the moment contractions started. The two (2) hardest things for me at this time were not being able to hold her when she was born and leaving the hospital without her. Because of her amazing condition, she was only in the hospital a week for observation purposes. I was there with her each day from when the ICU opened until they kicked me out. And during non-visiting hours, I would often call to check on my "Peanut". My future was still uncertain and I was not going to miss any opportunity to spend time with her.
September 14, 2001: Fourteen (14) hour surgery to remove a golf ball size tumor. I came out permanently deaf on my left side and they did their best to complete a facial nerve graft but my face was still paralyzed (it would take years before any improvement would show). I'm not going to lie...I was angry. I didn't understand why this happened to me. As a music lover and vocalist, single-sided deafness was distressing. And well, having a "half working" face can make a person self conscious. The most devastating part of the situation was the fact that I was not able to hold or take care of my daughter for a period of time. After I was fully healed from my surgery, they decided that radiation was not necessary but still reminded me that this type of tumor could come back, especially given the size of mine - there was no giarantee they were able to capture all of the tumor cells. I went onto a maintenance plan of an MRI every 6 months at first and then transitioned to the 1 year cycle.
September 2005: A new tumor growth was found but it was minimal and might be scar tissue. I was put on a "watch" list and moved back to the 6 month MRI cycle.
September 2007: The 2005 tumor reflected growth and a new growth had popped up. This confirmed that what they saw on the MRI was not scar tissue, they were in fact tumors. Because these new tumors were on the carotid artery in my head, surgery wasn't an option. There were far too great a risk of bleeding to death or having a stroke. Gamma Knife Radiation it is!
October 25, 2007: Gamma Knife Radiation treatment is like several radiation treatments in a single session (at least for me it was). They put my hair in pigtails (seriously) and that's when I asked for a lollipop (they thought it was funny). I had a heavy cage literally screwed into my skull. After about an hour of them cranking up the heat and cooking the tumors, I was done. The next week or so after the treatment was not in the least bit pleasant due to the side-effects but it was better than walking around with a couple of growing tumors in my head.
Today: I am on a 2 year MRI cycle and have had clear reports! People keep telling me that my facial paralysis keeps getting better and new people who find out about my story often tell me that they didn't even notice my facial paralysis or that I have single sided deafness because I function so well. I've gotten over the anger and being self conscious about my hearing and "half-working" face. At the end of the day, these things are part of me and who I am now. Looking back now, I suppose surviving three (3) brain tumors is incredible to most people but for me, I just did what I needed to do to be here for my daughter. Those tumors made me a stronger individual and taught me that life is precious.
MOST IMPORTANTLY....it is because of God's will, love, mercy and support that I am alive today. God gave Cassidy to me because he knew I needed her. She is the angel God sent to save my life. I am truly thankful and blessed for everyone and everything God has provided and continues to provide me in this life. Put God first in everything and he will take care of the rest.
Caroline Lee - 10 Year Survivor
In 2003, as a senior in high school, I noticed one day that I couldn't see anything out of my right eye. I was naive and thought that I just needed glasses so I postponed a visit to the doctor until after graduation. At the optometrist appointment, it quickly became clear that this was no a "normal" vision loss, to go from seeing clearly to utter darkness in one eye. Several weeks of tests, misdiagnoses, medications, and a carousel of doctors, I was finally led to a neuro-opthalmologist in Jackson, MS. He quickly located the tumor on my MRI (that previous doctors had all missed); I was diagnosed that day with a meningioma on my right optic nerve.
My first semester of college was spent back and forth between school and the medical center in Jackson having a variety of tests done to figure out the best course of treatment and prepping me for radiation therapy in the spring. I spent more than 30 days in radiation therapy in the spring. I was told that it was unlikely the tumor would shrink much and that I would not get any of my vision back in my right eye.
I'm very happy to say that I've had a bit of a miracle. I was declared tumor free in 2010, just months before my wedding, and I currently have about 50% of my vision in my right eye. Although the vision is dark and blurry, I can distinguish colors and shapes in the lower half of my vision. Considering I started with no vision in that eye, I'll take it! I am on a yearly MRI cycle and will continue with that for another 3 years at which time we will most likely change to a 2 year cycle. I'm really excited and proud to be participating in the run again this year.
Are you a Brain Tumor survivor? Is your friend or family member a Brain Tumor survivor? Highlight their story here! Please send your story and a picture and/or video to Stefanie@MilesForHope.org and we will get it posted!