The World Works in Mysterious Ways: Cheryl's Story

The most unforgettable day of Cheryl Vollrath’s life happened in July 2002, when she was told that a large, orange-sized mass was growing in her brain. When she reflects on her journey, she notes that sometimes, the world works in mysterious ways.

An otherwise typical workday, she called her brother and left a message that she would not be able to drive herself home, would he be able to pick her up? She does not remember this. After lunch, she began feeling sick to her stomach and remembers going to the washroom. That is her last real memory of that day. Her next memory is being in the hospital surrounded by family and a doctor telling her that she had a Meningioma brain tumour.

The pressure from the tumour, located behind her right eye, had caused a massive seizure. Fortunately, it was in a location the doctors believed to be completely operable. There was a 95% chance of complete removal and because of its size it was believed to be non malignant. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning.

“Nothing can prepare you for such devastating news. I truly had no idea what was occurring.” remembers Cheryl, “I was terrified and at the same time in denial. How could I have possibly been walking around with this thing in my head for such a long time?”

After a very long surgery she awoke in the recovery room to her family looking completely relieved and so very tired. “I wanted to hug them all and tell them it was going to be alright,” she recalls. And she could feel their sadness and relief at the same time.

Looking back, Cheryl points to several suspicious symptoms, this may have been from the slow growing tumour in her brain: sinus headaches and infections, neck and shoulder pain, muscle spasms and twitching. She would forget words in the middle of a conversation, or would suddenly stop talking and start on another subject altogether.

Years later, Cheryl discovered the impact of the brain tumour was still present. In June of 2010, Cheryl had another seizure. This was caused by scar tissue from the surgical incision and was causing her brain to “miss-fire”. She was put on a low dose of seizure medication until a near fatal automobile accident alerted her medical team that the dose needed to be increased.

Cheryl wants to help others who have been affected by a brain tumour so on Saturday, June 2nd, 2012, she and her family, along with hundreds of other people in the Edmonton area will join the thousands across Canada who will don their sneakers to participate in Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s annual Spring Sprint (now Brain Tumour Walk). Last year, in 21 cities, Spring Sprints raised an unprecedented $1.5 million dollars for brain tumour research and to support the estimated 27 Canadians diagnosed with a brain tumour every day. It is estimated that 55,000 Canadians are currently living with a brain tumour.

The Edmonton Spring Sprint (now Brain Tumour Walk) features 2.5km and 5km routes through beautiful Hawrelak Park. You can register online or by telephone at 1-800-265-5106. Participants raise pledges that are used to bring hope to people affected by a brain tumour and to fund research. Each step is one step closer to imagining a cure.

“I want to do what I can,” Cheryl expresses. “This was a life altering experience and I want a way to give back.” Cheryl admits the diagnosis was quite scary to herself and her family. Today she looks upon it and the resulting situations as meant to be.


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Story posted: April 2012

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