Big Joe's Story: Living with a Glioblastoma Multiforme

On December 13, 2011, Joe Spaziani’s life changed completely when he was diagnosed with an inoperable glioblastoma multiforme brain tumour. Today Joe has been living with his tumour for nearly 17 months, outpacing the life expectancy he first heard from his doctor. This spring Joe and his family are supporting the upcoming Spring Sprint (now Brain Tumour Walk) fundraising event for programs and research.

Joe’s brain tumour diagnosis came after several months of extreme fatigue that came to a head with an intense headache, slurred speech and one side of his mouth curling one week prior to his diagnosis. These symptoms lead Joe’s wife Corinna to insist on a trip to the emergency room and a CT scan. Initially the plan was for Joe to undergo emergency surgery but a pre-op MRI revealed that the risk of this would be too high, Joe was told he had only a five percent chance of surviving the surgery, "Not the greatest odds," he says, "not even in Vegas!"

He says, "Christmas and New Years was spent with my family trying to make sense of it all. I was having increasing headaches and pressure that I ended up back in Emergency on January 1st,  New Years' Day. I then had another MRI which indicated my tumour had grown even more since my initial diagnosis. My wife and family were told that I might not even make it to treatment. "

Ten days later Joe was admitted to the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, where he took on six weeks of simultaneous radiation and chemotherapy.  He says, “The visits from my family and friends have kept me focused on what I have to live for.”

"Even though I was given only one year to live, which is the average life expectancy for patients with this kind of brain tumour, I am proud to be standing here today saying I have been living with cancer for near 17 months."

For Joe and his family, the brain tumour has been just one in a series of occurrences reminding everyone that, “We have each other and have to stand behind them all with encouragement and love. This has brought our family together and made us even stronger than before.”

Joe's brain tumour journey has continued and in November 2012 he learned there is a second tumour set very deep in the brain and too close to the initial tumour to do radiation. As a result Joe began a different chemotherapy, which he is still on today; he is hopeful he responds well to it.

For and his family, taking life one day at a time is so very important to making it along this journey. He says, " I look at life as a daily blessing and thank God everyday that I am able to be here sharing life with my two little girls, my wife and my beloved parents and my family. Never have I, or will I take life for granted. I will embrace the journey ahead regardless of other hurdles that may come. I will remain positive for a better tomorrow."

Thank you Joe, for sharing your story of courage and hope.

Update: Joe died at the family home on January 7, 2015. He was 40 years old.  

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Story originally posted: April 2013 


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