I’ve been busy interviewing amazing cancer survivors for my new book, Miracle Survivors, due out next October (or sooner, I hope!). It feels like I have some hidden treasures buried here in my office. So starting today, I’ll start sharing the incredible stories of people in the book.
Nine years ago, at the age of 30, Greg was diagnosed with stage IV Glioblastoma Multiforme, the most deadly form of brain cancer with a median survival rate of 11 months. Not only did Greg beat the heck out of the odds, he’s dedicating his life to helping others with his nonprofit. Greg’s Mission focuses on providing support, hope, education, current resources and awareness to patients suffering from brain tumors, their families and caregivers especially Glioblastoma Multiforme.
I’ll let Greg tell his story:
On October 28, 2004, my plane had just arrived in Minneapolis, where I would begin my new job with Northwest airlines. I checked into my hotel, went out to eat and went to bed for what I thought would be a good night sleep.
At approximately 11:15 pm from what I was told, I awoke, experiencing a grand mal seizure. I couldn’t talk, was barely able to breathe, and was conscious but very confused. I was rushed to the emergency room where the doctors asked me all sorts of questions. The questions were “easy” and I knew I knew the answers, but could not come up with them. I was given a CT scan and next an MRI. Then they said the doctor was calling in a neurologist from home. I thought to myself, “Why?” “This can’t be that serious, or can it?”
The neurologist finally arrived and delivered the news no one wants to hear. “Greg you have a brain tumor.” Two days later, I returned for a biopsy of the tumor. A few days after that, the results were in: Stage IV Glioblastoma. I could tell in the neurologist’s eyes and tone of voice that the chances I would survive were extremely slim. I thought to myself, “Did I hear him right?” “Why me?”
That was the only time I ever felt sorry for myself. From that point on, I was positive and knew I was going to beat this cancer no matter what the statistics or doctors said. My son was one year old at the time. I thought to myself, “I have to be here for him.” “I want to see him go to school on his first day, play sports, have his first girlfriend, graduate from high school, get married” “I have to be here for all that and I am not going to die!” I buckled down for the fight of my life.
I met with my oncologist, who explained I had a 5 percent chance of surviving one year. He gave me three options for treatment. I chose the most aggressive: have surgery and go all out to fight this cancer with everything that medicine had to offer. This option would make me the sickest and require many different treatments, but would hopefully give me the best chance of long-term survival.
I was scared. I had never had any type of surgery before, and now I was having a craniotomy. I had no clue what to expect. The big day finally arrived. Scared and with tears in my eyes, my parents and friends said that they would see me when I got out of surgery, and I was wheeled down the hallway.
I woke up in ICU and was told that the neurosurgeon implanted five Gliadel Wafers into the resected tumor site to release direct chemotherapy over a period of time. After a brief recovery from the surgery I went through six weeks of radiation in combination with Timador, an oral chemotherapy drug. After I completed the radiation therapy, I had a couple weeks to rest up before starting my regular chemotherapy regime. Over the next 12 months, I went into the hospital for three consecutive nights each month where I would receive two types of chemotherapy, Cytoxin and Etoposide, then a rest period, then the same chemotherapy again.
The day before my release from the hospital, I went to interventional radiology where a catheter was threaded from the artery in my groin up to my brain to release Carboplatin, another chemotherapy drug. This procedure was risky, as well (chance of blood clot, infection or stroke), but I knew it would increase my chances of long-term survival.
Textbooks and statistics showed a 100% chance the tumor would grow back. Thank God, to this day, it hasn’t. Currently I have MRIs every four months and they have been clear.
I am currently providing support to 600 people around the globe. I also travel around the country and world attending conferences and speaking about my experiences with this devastating disease. It is my goal that everyone will have the opportunity that I didn’t – the chance to talk to a survivor.
For more information about Greg and his charity, visit www.gregsmission.org.