Nadine’s Story: Getting Back on the Ice

Nadine’s Story: Getting Back on the Ice

At the young age of 14, Nadine and the Oubayan family faced the tough diagnosis of a pediatric brain tumour. At the time, Nadine was an eighth-grade student living in St. Catherines, Ontario. Looking back, Nadine recalls the difficult months leading up to her diagnosis as she struggled with severe migraines that would have her in tears. She would take six Tylenols a day in hopes that the pain would stay away. Nadine started seeing double and her family booked an appointment with an optometrist thinking she had a problem with her eyes. Concerned about what the eye exam showed, Nadine’s optometrist sent her straight to her local emergency room. “Being young I did not realize the seriousness of the situation and why my parents were so scared,” Nadine remembers.

After several scans at the hospital, Nadine and her family were told the cause of the vision changes and headaches the teen was experiencing: Nadine was diagnosed with an ependymoma brain tumour. After the shocking news, Nadine’s brother came to her comfort, giving her a hug and saying that, “it’s going to be okay.” Finding strength together, the Oubayans were ready to fight this disease. That same day Nadine was taken to McMaster Children’s Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. There she had surgery to remove the four-centimetre tumour on her cerebellum. Following her recovery from the operation, Nadine began the next stage in her treatment, six weeks of radiation.

It was a trying time for the family and Nadine’s everyday life changed drastically as she could no longer take part in her favourite pastimes. “Hockey was my life,” Nadine explains, reflecting on the time before her diagnosis. Nadine is passionate about athletics – at the time of her diagnosis she was involved in several competitive sports, but hockey was what she loved most. However, in the months leading up to her diagnosis, she was let go from her hockey team due to the physical challenges she was experiencing. For Nadine this adjustment was the hardest part of her brain tumour journey. Now she says she appreciates the ability to play but says that sports are not the most important thing in her life.

Nadine, now 18 and a brain tumour survivor, is working towards a degree in Psychology at Brock University, with the hope of becoming a counsellor and working in a hospital to help children cope with their health diagnoses. She is also starting to play hockey again on an intermural team. “It will be frustrating, getting back to hockey, but in the back of my mind I remember that I could have not been here and that makes me push harder.”

Nadine’s outlook and determination helped her stay positive throughout her journey but she says it was not without help and support from loved ones. ”Having people that believed in me and supported me throughout my brain tumour journey made all the difference. I was not alone.” While surrounded by family, there was one person that stood out for Nadine – her basketball coach, who believed Nadine could once again play sports. “My coach saw me play before my treatment and knew I still had potential even though I couldn’t dribble with my left hand. My coach believed in me and helped me get back into playing sports.”

Today Nadine and her family want to share their story to help support kids and teens who face a similar diagnosis, and to let them know that they and their families are not alone on this journey. Along with sharing her story, Nadine fundraises for charities whose goal is to find a cure for pediatric brain tumours. The past several years she has participated in Relay for Life and is looking forward to joining Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada in Spring Sprint in 2014.

After navigating the brain tumour journey, Nadine says an optimistic perspective (and a special commemorative tattoo!) helped get her through the diagnosis, treatment, recovery, and now, back on the ice. “A positive attitude can take you really far,” she adds, and it’s this outlook that motivates her as she aims to make a difference for other pediatric brain tumour survivors.


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Story posted: February 2014


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