Tanya's Story: Survivor Supports Spring Sprint

Tanya's Story: Survivor Supports Spring Sprint

When Guelph resident Tanya Lea was diagnosed with multiple brain tumours at the age of 40, she was shocked. Falling sick had been the furthest thing from her mind. An active and independent woman, she was scared but also determined to live the best life possible.

Now, one year and one brain surgery later, Tanya is leading the community to support all of the area’s patients, survivors and their families at the Guelph Spring Sprint (since renamed Brain Tumour Walk) in support of Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.

Tanya’s journey began with symptoms including chronic tinnitus, some hearing loss, and slight imbalance. A CT scan was ordered and, much to Tanya’s shock, it revealed four brain tumours. A follow-up MRI lead to further news that there were actually nine tumours of varying types, locations and sizes on her brain. This was soon diagnosed as Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2), a rare genetic disorder that leads to brain tumours. There is no cure for this disease.

While these nine tumours were all determined to be non-malignant, the initial prognosis was not good. Because of the location of her tumours, Tanya was told to prepare for complete deafness, facial paralysis, speech problems and survival of about 15 years.

Surgery was recommended to remove the two largest tumours, which were placing aggressive pressure on her brain. So, in May 2011, Tanya underwent brain surgery. Both tumours were 100% removed. Within two weeks Tanya was driving, at four weeks she returned to hiking and after six weeks, she went back to work. “Brain surgery wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d expected it to be,” she recalls.

Following her surgery, Tanya began attending the Guelph Support Group run by Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. There she met others on the journey with a brain tumour. She explains, “It has been a tremendous source of information and support. It's nice to be able to meet people and make jokes or bawl my eyes out and they always know exactly where that emotion comes from; no platitudes or empty words, just sharing.”

This monthly meeting along with critical brain tumour research, patient information and education, is supported by funds raised through the annual Spring Sprint walk-a-thon/fun run program for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Tanya is the 2012 Volunteer Coordinator for the Guelph event. It is under her determined leadership that hundreds of Guelph area brain tumour patients, survivors, families and friends will come together at the Guelph Arboretum for the inspiring and hopeful day on May 5, 2012.

Tanya wants the Guelph community to know that their support for the event helps brain tumour patients, like her, from the moment they are diagnosed. She explains, “Because I found information and support from Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, I went into my surgery with a positive attitude. I set goals for my recovery in advance and never once believed I wouldn't be able to meet them.”

Tanya’s story ends well. In the fall of 2011, genetic testing revealed that she has the mildest form of NF2. Her updated prognosis no longer includes deafness or facial paralysis, and her life expectancy is now normal. She says, “What hasn’t killed me has certainly made me stronger.”

Photo: Zion National Park in Utah at the top of a 2200-ft peak overlooking the canyon, approximately six months following Tanya's brain surgery.

Note: This story was shared in 2012. 

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