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Wenger, Harriet

Wenger, Harriet

Wenger, Harriet

My Mom's Story: Harriet Luxenburg Wenger

On April 29, 2009 my life was changed forever. As the words tumour, malignant and aggressive were spoken by the surgeon, an overwhelming sense of fear came over me and my family. You never believe that something as terrible as this could happen to someone you know, let alone one's mother. The reality is, it does happen!

After six months of misdiagnoses, my mom was diagnosed with a grade four Glioblastoma. She underwent 20 rounds of radiation which caused her to lose the majority of her hair. She was the placed on Temodal, a chemo pill, which she tolerated quite well. Her optimistic attitude was what allowed my family and friends to get through that trying and scary time. About one year after diagnosis, my mom began to exhibit similar symptoms to before her first surgery. Doctors informed us that there was a tremendous amount of swelling in her brain, and they could not determine from her MRIs if it was tumour progression or radiation necrosis which was causing her headaches, nausea and coordination problems.

In June 2010, my mom had an awake surgery, where she made medical history by calling me and my father during the operation. The surgeon informed us that what they removed was in fact radiation necrosis, and pathology reported no malignant cells. We thought we witnessed a miracle. My mom was doing well for the first couple of months, but by the end of the summer 2010, she was having terrible pins and needles and started to lose feeling on her left side of her body.

In October 2010 my mom had a seizure. Since her seizure, 8 months ago, my mom has been bedridden and wheelchair bound. She was placed on extremely high levels of dexamethasone after the seizure, which caused her to lose muscle mass in her arms and legs as well as develop diabetes. In order to be able to reduce the cortisone, her oncologist suggested trying Avastin, an experimental treatment which has proven to be successful with patients who suffer from radiation necrosis.

My mom received six Avastin treatments, and doctors were “impressed” with the results. However, my mom still was experiencing terrible weakness and pain on the left side of her body. We then learned that Avastin seemed to hide tumour progression on MRIs. Due to her poor physical state, doctors suspected that there was in fact tumour progression going on. Although the Avastin did help with the necrosis, her blood tests demonstrated that the drug was straining her liver and causing her to become too toxic to continue any treatments at the moment. In the words of my mom’s oncologist, “this is not a battle that my mom could win.”

As I attended routine clinic appointments with my mom at the Montreal Neurological Institute, I couldn’t help but notice all the patients in the waiting room with that same look of terror on their faces.My mom’s biggest wish is to be able to help those who are unfortunately battling the same disease that she is. I have watched my mom struggle both physically and emotionally and fight this battle every single day for the past two years. My mom is the bravest person I know. She was a warrior through two surgeries, numerous rounds of chemotherapy, radiation and other experimental treatments.

When one member of the family gets sick, the whole family gets sick. I decided to participate in the Spring Sprint so that a cure can be found to ensure that no other daughter would have to watch their mother suffer like I have. I will be walking the Spring Sprint on behalf of my mom, because unfortunately this monster, as my mom refers to it, has taken away her ability to walk. With every step I take, I will be thinking about the strength and courage displayed by my mom and the 55,000 other Canadians diagnosed and affected by brain tumours.

The generosity and support from my family and friends has truly been overwhelming. My mom now needs a miracle to survive this horrible disease. We cherish each day and enjoy the time we have left together. No one should have to suffer like my mom has, and I will continue to devote my time and efforts to this cause until a cure is found.

Lindsay Wenger


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