Bekki's Story of Strength

Bekki's Story of Strength

Less than one year ago, 31-year-old childcare worker Bekki Rahal’s life changed in a way she had never imagined that it could. In the middle of the night, on January 29, 2012, she found herself awake with a leg cramp. “I thought that it was a ‘charlie horse’ and that I would just go back to sleep,” she remembers. But then, she started yelling in pain, waking her husband Steve and before they knew it, she was having a seizure.

The seizure affected her right arm, her right leg, and her speech and then she became unconscious and stopped breathing for a short time. Bekki was rushed to the local hospital by ambulance. “It wasn’t until we arrived at the hospital that I opened my eyes and asked what was going on.” After a series of tests including blood work and a CT scan, Bekki was diagnosed with a mixed glioma brain tumour. The tumour was located in the top left part of her brain affecting her fine motor skills on the right side of her body.

Surgery was determined to be the first course of action and was scheduled for March 5th, 2012. In anticipation of the surgery, Bekki shaved her head and donated her long hair to Continental Hair in Toronto; they use donated hair to make wigs for children who have lost their hair from cancer.

Due to the location of the tumour, which was the size of a golf ball, it could not be entirely removed. With a wide circle of family and friends stepping up following the diagnosis, Bekki and Steve felt very supported, “Our family and friends were very supportive. We had plenty of visitors at the hospital during my stay, as well as emails, text messages, and phone calls. We knew who would support us and with those people in our lives, we knew that we were not alone.”

She remembers the time after surgery as a physical challenge with, “excruciating headaches for about three to four weeks after my surgery, but after that time frame, there have been very few.” Due to the location of the tumour, her fine motor skills were also affected. She says, “When I tried to eat, my right arm would stop mid-way to my mouth. When I tried to write, my hand would stop and go. Once I was able to walk longer distances, my right leg would drag at times.”

She says, “It didn’t sink in that I had surgery, and that things would be different, until about two weeks after. I did have frustrating moments because I didn’t feel any different, but my brain took a little longer to complete tasks. Steve had to remind me, “Bekki, you just had brain surgery, try to be calm and let things heal.”

Then two months after surgery, Bekki started a year-long chemotherapy regimen, which she continues today. She remembers starting the treatment as a difficult experience, “The first night was rough as I was up for three and a half hours, in the middle of the night, vomiting. I have tolerated the chemotherapy since the second night with mild nausea at times.”

When she reflects on hearing those words, “you have a brain tumour,” Bekki says she found comfort in the diagnosis. “I was relieved that there was an explanation for my seizure. And so I looked at my husband and the doctor who delivered us the news, and said, ‘It will be okay’”. Bekki and Steve had stuck together with determination to conquer the diagnosis, “Steve has never left my side,” she says. “We appreciate the little things in life that were taken for granted when our schedules were busy.”

Thanks to the efforts of the brain tumour community to share the information online, Bekki learned about both Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada and Brain Tumour Awareness Month. Through a Facebook post Bekki found the stories from other patients and families, as well as information about how the organization can help her and her family.

Bekki shares her insight into coping with a brain tumour diagnosis. “The most important thing that I have learned is to be positive and embrace your family and friends who have the same goal as you – to see you conquer your illness. You are not being selfish to ask those around you to respect your wishes to keep your environment positive and healthy.”

“Every person with a brain tumour will react differently to the treatments. Live for the moment, the day, and then the future. Keep your mind and body healthy…and you will live your life to the fullest.”

Thank you to Bekki for sharing your incredible story of strength.

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 Story posted: October 2012. Since then, Brain Tumour Awareness Month has moved to May.

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