Vicki's Journey of Courage and Hope

Vicki's Journey of Courage and Hope

Vicki Jackson’s father Dave Ozard vividly remembers the afternoon when his 36-year-old daughter, a mother to two young boys, first said she was worried she might have a brain tumour. It was the summer of 2009 and Vicki and he were sitting in his backyard chatting. Some odd symptoms that she had been experiencing were becoming more troublesome and constant: trouble swallowing, numbness in her arm and anxiety. A friend’s brother had recently passed away from a brain tumour and hearing about his experience attuned Vicki to the possibility. “She said she was concerned that she might have a brain tumour,” Dave remembers.

So Vicki continued to press her doctors that something was not right. Just before the Canada Day long weekend she had a CAT scan. The test was scheduled for 8:30 in the morning and by the time Vicki returned home, she was being asked to return to the hospital. It was then that Vicki and her husband heard the words, ‘rare, inoperable tumour on the brain stem’.

“Her first thought was for her boys,” Dave recalls. A young, vibrant mother, Vicki began treatment with a determination to continue to spend time with Zachary and Nigel. While the fact that the location of the tumour made it too dangerous to operate was frightening, there were indications that the type of tumour was not likely to spread. This gave the family great reason to hope.

The fall and winter became a blur of treatments and side effects. Vicki began taking steroids to control swelling and because the swallowing issues were getting severe, she was placed on a feeding tube. Before long she began radiation therapy which successfully shrunk the tumour, allowing the removal of the feeding tube. Chemotherapy was also started.

“Everyone really pulled together for Vicki and the boys,” Dave recalls. “We also got information from Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada and that really helped.” Through all of this, Vicki persevered through a lifelong fear of hospitals and a variety of additional side effects.

During this time Vicki learned about the upcoming London Spring Sprint. “That was her motivation to get off the feeding tube and to try to walk,” Dave recalls. By March, she was starting to recover, was standing and using a walker. “We went to the Spring Sprint (now Brain Tumour Walk) and she walked the whole 2.5 kilometres,” Dave says. “It was a wonderful day.”

“By May, a sense of normalcy was starting to return,” Dave says. Vicki was spending time with her boys, taking them places and enjoying being their mother. Her doctors were really pleased with her progress and the family began making plans for the future.

It was during a June family visit to the cottage when Vicki complained of numbness in her leg. The family wondered if it was related to the chemotherapy as she previously experienced numbness as a side effect of the treatment. The symptom was concerning so Vicki headed to the hospital where she soon learned that the tumour had now spread down her spine. This was a great shock to everyone because of the initial assessment that this was unlikely.

Dave and his wife Liz, Vicki’s mother, were with Vicki and her husband when they learned in November 2010 that there was nothing more that could be done. True to her selfless nature and concern for others, Vicki’s first reaction was to thank the doctor for the care and support she had benefited from. The family then spent the next two weeks together at Vicki’s home before she passed away.

Just eight months later, Dave is finding ways to honour his daughter and keep her memory alive. One way he is doing this is by sharing her story and her love of life with the community including at the 10th Annual Charity Golf Classic. The event raises funds for brain tumour research and for patient programs like the London Support Group that she also found comfort through.

“She was determined to be there for her kids and even when she was having great difficulty, she managed to coordinate a dynamo birthday party,” Dave says. “I want people to know that she loved life and that she kept her spirit through everything she endured. When she had tears, they were for her kids, not herself.”

Posted: July 2011

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