The Floods' Story: A Gift for Tomorrow

The Floods' Story: A Gift for Tomorrow

Wedding anniversaries are a time of celebration, of recognizing the year that has passed and all those to come. October 2012 marked Eleanor and Doug Flood’s 61st wedding anniversary, and for this Lambeth, ON couple, they’ve chosen to commemorate their nuptial landmarks by hosting a yearly fundraiser. Many of the years’ festivities have raised important dollars for the brain tumour community, a cause close to the Floods’ hearts and home.

Eleanor is a three-time brain tumour survivor who now manages the day-to-day late effects of the disease and its treatments. The impact of Eleanor’s non-malignant tumours has left her completely deaf and with partial facial paralysis. The first tumour was discovered when Eleanor was 38 years old.

It all started when Eleanor noticed she was experiencing balance issues and a buzzing in her left ear. She was sent to St. Joseph’s Hospital in London, ON for a caloric reflex auditory test to help determine the cause of the hum in her ear. When the test showed some abnormalities, Eleanor was referred for further examination. Due to concern around the possibility of having tumours on her spine, Eleanor had a myelogram – an x-ray of the area. A strenuous procedure that involves special dye injected into cerebrospinal fluid, Eleanor was then tilted to allow the dye to mix with the spinal fluid. Remembering his wife’s ordeal with the test, Doug says it was a difficult but necessary step. “She came out of the room, completely dizzy and sick to her stomach. Eleanor would say she didn’t want to return but it was so important that she did, so we could get to the bottom of everything.” An acoustic neuroma (now called Vestibular Schwannoma) was eventually found and resected. Due to the operation and the location of the tumour, Eleanor’s seventh and eighth cranial nerves were damaged which resulted in facial paralysis and deafness in her left ear.

Several years would pass, and Doug and Eleanor’s two children would grow up and have families of their own. It wasn’t until 1988 that symptoms began reappearing for Eleanor. This time, the acoustic neuroma had returned on her right side, requiring radiation treatment. Gamma Knife® radiosurgery had only recently been brought to North America, with the first centre opening in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eleanor was considered a good candidate for the innovative treatment and was one of the first 100 patients to undergo Gamma Knife radiosurgery at the US facility. “It was incredibly fast,” recalls Doug. “Eighteen minutes – Eleanor was in and out of that room in a single treatment.”

Recovered and back at home, life continued for the couple. A 1989 winter concert at London’s Centennial Hall marks an especially sad memory for Doug and Eleanor.  It was there that Eleanor went completely deaf. “We were just sitting there, enjoying the show, when it happened.” As Doug puts it, “It felt like everything changed.”

Today, Eleanor and Doug work together to overcome the challenges they face as a result of their journey with a brain tumour, which continues as Eleanor has a third recurrence with another mass near the back of her brain. Eleanor has also learned to lip-read rather than sign, a decision she and Doug made as it was too challenging at their age to learn an entire new language. Two months’ training helped Doug understand how much he needed to change his vocabulary in order to maintain communication with his beloved wife. “It was a slow but sure change,” he adds. “I need to choose each word carefully as it must have lip movements for Eleanor to read.” They also keep busy with historical preservation activities and a vast collection of music memorabilia, plus their annual fundraiser and planned giving.

Philanthropy plays a large role in the Floods’ lives, as they support a variety of charitable causes, including Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Over the years, the couple has generously given of their time to organize their anniversary event, donating proceeds to programs for the brain tumour community. They have also committed to supporting the future of patient care and brain tumour research through a Legacy Gift – a bequest in their wills. Doug explains, “We choose to give to causes that are important to us both. Our wills leave something to several charities near and dear to Eleanor and me.”

Looking back over the years, Doug acknowledges that it hasn’t been easy navigating the journey with a brain tumour but that together he and Eleanor strive to find joy in the little things, choosing not to let their circumstances dictate their outlook. As he says, “It’s just how it is. You know it has to be this way, so you just do it.”

Thank you to Doug and Eleanor Flood for sharing your story of courage and generosity.

This story was published in 2012

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