Sara's Story of Strength

Sara's Story of Strength

Sara shares her story of strength in honour of Brain Tumour Awareness Month

“He was a hardworking man, healthy, ran his own computer store, and did construction. He never really let anything bother him and was the rock of our family.” This is what Sara Ouimet recalls in admiration of her father, Brian, who was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour on September 28, 2011.

The Ouimet family’s brain tumour journey began following Brian’s triple bypass heart surgery in 2010. It was then that his family began noticing that his personality and certain behaviours were changing. In a matter of weeks, Sara’s soft-spoken father became totally different.

“He started having symptoms like anger and mood swings. One minute he could be laughing, the next he could be crying, but the doctors said that might have been the medication for his heart surgery so they shrugged it off,” Sara explains.

Not long after this, Sara’s father broke down. “A week before the diagnosis, sitting with his laptop, he broke down and started crying, saying ‘I don’t know what I’m doing or where I am,’” Sara recounts. After a CT scan, Sara’s father, who never struggled with headaches or any other typical brain tumour symptoms, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour – a glioblastoma multiforme.

“At first, we didn’t completely understand the diagnosis. When they explained it, [doctors said] ‘Your father has a huge mass in his brain and he is going to die.’ That’s pretty much the diagnosis we got,” Sara says. It was a shock for this loving family.

Brian went immediately into aggressive treatment including two surgeries, six weeks of radiation, and chemotherapy for a year. After the second surgery, Brian began experiencing complications the Ouimet family was not ready for, including severe seizures and paralysis on an entire side of his body. His speech was also affected and he was unable to form full sentences. “We felt a bit blindsided,” Sara recalls, and her role and duties as caregiver changed instantly.

Sara explains the main struggle was not necessarily the disease itself but the immense effects and the ways in which it altered her father’s personality and the entirety of who he was. “You lose the person completely. Things that wouldn’t normally bother them would bother them quite a bit and the person they were before changes. Their world becomes smaller and they might feel trapped.”

Sadly, Brian passed away January 27, 2013 – 16 months after his diagnosis. Sara and the family like to focus on his strength, that he defeated his prognosis that was estimated to be only three months.

While seeking support, Sara reached out to Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada, discovering the Brain Tumour Handbooks and others’ stories about their own experiences with the disease. Sara also participated in the 2013 Ottawa Spring Sprint (now Brain Tumour Walk) to raise money for better treatment options and meet new people that had been, and still are, battling a brain tumour.

“After my dad passed away my mom and I wanted to do something to remember and honour him.”

Sara is now reaching out to those families who are navigating the brain tumour journey by urging them to seek support wherever they can. “It’s so very important to find as many places as you can as a family to get support and answers about the things you don’t understand. You really are not alone.”

Sara also hopes Brain Tumour Awareness Month can educate others on the vast differences between brain tumours and other types of cancers. Brain cancer is so different, because it doesn’t just affect a certain part of an organ, but it can also really change your loved one. More people need to know that.”

Thank you Sara for sharing your story of strength.

Donate now to support patients and families in honour of Brain Tumour Awareness MonthYou can donate to support the brain tumour community today. Your one-time, tribute or recurring gift brings hope to the 837 Canadians that will be diagnosed with a brain tumour each month. Thank you.

<back to Brain Tumour Awareness Month

Story posted: October 2013. Since then, Brain Tumour Awareness Month has moved to May.

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