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In 2003, much to the shock of her family and friends, sixteen-year-old Madonna Nixon was diagnosed with a non-malignant brain tumour. Since that frightening day, she has endured four surgeries and more than 30 rounds of radiation to try to eliminate the tumour and cope with symptoms.
As a result of her tumour and the surgeries, Madonna copes every day with numerous side effects that have changed her life dramatically. Now 10 years later, Madonna and her family are helping to raise awareness about brain tumours, the need for fundraising and most importantly, the impact that a non-malignant brain tumour can have.
When she was first diagnosed, Madonna underwent both brain surgery and radiation treatment. This treatment gave her and her family much-needed relief and she continued forward with school and hobbies. Madonna continued to feel well, until 2011 when she began experiencing disturbing symptoms.
Vision and memory problems, including not remembering what day it was or what city she was in, and sleeping almost 18 hours a day, led Madonna and her family back to the doctor. Soon it was discovered that there were cysts growing in her third ventricle. Madonna gathered her strength and headed in for another brain surgery, and again it was successful.
Then in March 2012, Madonna and her family learned that the non-malignant tumour was growing again. Very quickly Madonna was scheduled for a third surgery. This time there were complications. During this procedure she lost the use of her left eye. Then the vision in her right eye also started to decline, and in July 2012 she had another surgery to save the vision that remained.
Madonna and her family are thankful for the support offered by Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada including the connections found at the Edmonton brain tumour support group and the community gathering at the annual Edmonton Spring Sprint fundraising event. They are speaking out and sharing their story to stress two important messages; that non-malignant tumours can be very serious and the important need for a cure.
Today 26-year-old Madonna continues to cope with the impact of both her brain tumour and the treatments she has undergone. Both she and her family continue to hold onto hope for the future. They are also rallying together for the June 1, 2013 Edmonton Spring Sprint where their team 'The Nixons' has blasted past their fundraising goal.
"In March 2013, Madonna went for another MRI and on April 23rd we went to see the neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon advised us that the tumour had grown 150% from where it was prior to her last surgery. He said if the tumour continued to grow at the rate it was, Madonna’s future could be very short.
We discussed further surgery and her surgeon said it could be done but the risks were extremely high. He said that Madonna may not make it through the surgery or she may have no quality-of-life after surgery. We decided it was better to bring her home and provide palliative care as best we could with the help of homecare.
By September 15, 2013 Madonna‘s condition was getting really bad, she would hardly eat or drink and was having massive hallucinations. After consulting with Homecare and the family doctor it was decided that Madonna should be admitted to hospital. After 10 days in a regular hospital ward Madonna was transferred to palliative care where she passed away 14 days later."
Brain tumour survivors are often left with life-altering effects from the disease or treatment. Over the past year, medical student and researcher Nadia has witnessed this first-hand through her work with brain tumour patients. "Despite excellent support and advancements in technology, I know there are still so many aspects of patient care that can be improved."Learn more
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