We Were Given The Gift of Time

We Were Given The Gift of Time

In 2001, Shelley Wouters was a young mother, just finishing her maternity leave with her son. She was looking forward to what was coming next including the possibility of a sibling for Ben. So it was a shock to Shelley, her husband Jeff, and the entire community when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

“I remember coming home from working a midnight shift and she was awake, rinsing her mouth out. She told me she bit her tongue while she was sleeping,” Jeff remembers. When she called the doctor the next day, an emergency CT scan was scheduled. “I went to work that night, but something didn’t feel right,” Jeff says. So he returned home and not long after arriving, Shelley had a grand mal seizure and Jeff called 911.

That night they first heard the term ‘brain tumour.’ Because of the location and size of the tumour, comparable to the size of an orange, it would be difficult to operate. But the medical team was optimistic, telling the couple that it was low-grade and slow growing. So Shelley began chemotherapy which was followed by radiation, and when the follow-up MRI was done, the doctors were pleased with the outcome. “They said, ‘we’ve got this’,” Jeff recalls. Then Jeff and Shelley were given news they were not expecting. “They told us it would likely return in eight years.”

The Wouters tried to get back to normal, as much as possible. Shelley was given the okay to drive again and she was happy to be back to being a mom, volunteering at the local elementary school and enjoying the arts. “We sort of thought, if we don’t talk about it, it won’t come back,” Jeff remembers. Shelley underwent an annual MRI that set everyone on pins and needles, waiting to hear the outcome of the scan.

“Christmas 2007 is when it all changed,” Jeff says. “She had this strange unsteady moment in the kitchen and she just felt ‘off.’” Shelley made an appointment with her oncologist and they learned the tumour had returned. She began chemotherapy again but it did not seem to be reducing the tumour. During this time, Shelley was attending the London Brain Tumour Support Group and someone suggested they look for a second opinion. “So we took a long January drive to the Montreal Neurological Institute to meet with Dr. Rolando Del Maestro,” Jeff says, “and he said he could operate.”

Thursday January 8, Jeff remembers the day vividly; Shelley underwent a ten-hour awake-craniotomy. Multiple tumours were found and Dr. Del Maestro was able to remove one and a portion of the others. A few days later they returned home and Shelley seemed to be doing well for a short time.


Sadly, by Easter weekend, Shelley’s health was deteriorating and the family learned she was terminal. She was moved to palliative care where Jeff spent as much time as he could. “I lived there,” he remembers. “We celebrated her 37th birthday and she spent five weeks there before she passed away.”

 

Today, Jeff continues to attend the London Support Group as well as the annual London Brain Tumour Information Day conference in October. He also volunteers his time in support of fundraising efforts like the upcoming September 25th Bikers for Brains fundraising event. “I do it for her, in her honour,” he explains. “She was so brave during the entire time, her courage was amazing.”

“If I can help one family learn about the support and information available if they are dealing with a brain tumour, then I feel like I am helping,” he adds.

 

 

 

 

When asked what he wants people on the journey with a brain tumour to know, Jeff says, “some of those years when Shelley was in treatment, were the best years of my life. There is always hope and the potential to beat the odds. We were given the gift of time and I am so thankful for that.”
 

Posted: August 2011 


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