Matthew's Story

Matthew's Story

Dates can mean a lot to an individual. A birthday, anniversary, or in this case, days that changed my families life.

Well January 24th 1990 is a day that my mother will never forget. It was the day her little baby boy was born. My sister, who wanted to flush me down the toilet because I was a boy, gladly accepted the fact and became a big sister. I followed her around all throughout my child hood, being the annoying little brother who wouldn’t go away. This was the relationship we always had, although we still loved each other very much.

We grew up in the most amazing place in Canada. Yellowknife, NT. When I turned 18, I left the love of my life with a promise ring, and left Yellowknife for the Canadian Forces. One of the biggest decisions of my life, and by far one of my best. I left everything I knew and loved to pursue my dream.

I originally joined as an Infantier, but quickly changed trades to become an armoured crewman. Tanks! I mean who doesn’t want to play with tanks! Every little boy’s dream right? Well I spent a little time in Wainwright, AB. This was somewhat convenient because It was a short trip to Lethbridge, AB where my promise ringed/girlfriend, or whatever you want to call her, ( I now call her my wife), was at university.

Then I was sent to CFB Gagetown in New Brunswick where my girlfriend left school to follow me, and where I did my armoured crewman course. You know, a bunch of boring stuff that no one wants or needs to hear about.

After my course was completed, I remained here to help support future courses by driving armoured vehicles and so on. I tried saving as much money as I could to buy my girlfriend an engagement ring. Well I laid money down and waited to pay it off.

Until, on January 6th 2011, while I was still laying in bed, my soon to be wife jumps on top of me with something in her hand. She had told me that she woke up feeling “different” so she took a pregnancy test and it was positive! We were both so happy! Well everything went great for the pregnancy, then finally another date in my life that changed everything. September 4th 2011, my wife was induced due to an extremely rare rash.

We waited all night and finally at 02:12 on the 5th of September 2011(Labour day, how funny eh?), My son, Nathan Gordon Vernon Tremblett was born. One of the happiest days of my life. Next to my wedding day, and when my wife said yes and you know, the usual. I couldn’t wait to hold him. He was our little bundle of joy that rocked our world. Now being from Yellowknife, we had no family there, just us, so you can only imagine the amount of phone calls we had and text messages about our little boy. It still makes me tear up thinking about it.

Well Nathan wasn’t even 2 weeks old and we had our Jeep packed full of stuff and heading towards the North Sydney to Port-aux-Basque Ferry to go see our family in Newfoundland and Labrador. Everything went great, we spent a lot of time with family, spent a great time at my sister’s in Upper Island Cove, NL. Of course, my sister and I had our run in’s. Argued about the smallest things. You know, simple sibling abuse. Well, we left her house to try and make it to my mother-in-law’s house in Cartwright before Halloween to see my wife’s little sister’s house – all the way from the bottom of the Island, to the central coast of Labrador. We got delayed crossing the Labrador straits, but we drove the long drive at night once we could get across on the ferry. We spent only six days there until everything started going sour.

November 6th, 2011, was another day that changed everything. It was the day that I had my first Grand-mal seizure. This happened while I was having a bath. I had fallen asleep in the tub, and when I awoke, my right arm started to tingle like it was asleep, and then as if magic, started to float and move on its own till it reached my shoulder. Then It felt as if I had ripped my shoulder right out of its socket. I passed out from the pain.

Next thing I remember, the water was drained out of tub, and I was wearing underwear. (Funny, or not funny depending on how you look at it, I’m terrified of being found dead naked. Weird sort of phobia I guess. Nothing else bothers me except that. But instead I was found unconscious naked.) Anyways, after that I slowly remember everyone telling me I had a seizure and the ambulance was on its way. I couldn’t believe it. There is nothing wrong with me, yet here I am, laying on the bathroom floor, not able to move any part of my body except my head.

It had seemed like hours, but finally the ambulance showed up. One heavy set woman who was one of the nicest people I have ever met, and one skinny little man. All I could think is how are they going to get me into that ambulance. If you can’t tell I try to think positive and joke a lot. Anyways we got to the clinic where I was finally able to move some parts of my body and slowly was able to move. Not very well, or coordinated at all, but I was moving. After being held there for a short while, I was Medi-vaced to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, NL where my whole life was about to change.

It was there, after a long plane ride on a twin otter, that I met the most amazing physician I probably will ever meet. Dr. Margo Marie Wilson. This woman may have very well saved my life. I came in with no other symptoms except a low grade fever and abnormal blood levels. The ER wanted to do a Lumbar Puncture, to rule out Meningitis, but she stopped them and immediately had me in the CT Scanner. She just didn’t feel right about everything.

So after my CT came back, she was thankful that she didn’t have an LP performed, as she had found a “growth on my brain” and a large amount of swelling. She told me and my wife that had the LP been performed, I could have went into shock, seized and possibly died due to the rapid change in pressure on my brain. God Love that woman.

She started me on Dilantin and had me put in an isolation room just in case. I was held there for three days until I was somewhat stabilized, and the military flew my family back to New Brunswick. Funny thing about that flight, we had a stopover in Halifax, which ended up being five hours. They had arranged for medical officers to pick me up, drive me to the MRI clinic, and drive me back to the airport, disk in hand. I couldn’t believe it. Some people wait months to have an MRI done to find out their prognosis. Everything was sorted out for me in days. That is one reason I was glad to be in the Army.

After I got in at the airport in Fredericton, we were met by more medical officers who gave me my medications to take with me and my boss drove my wife, son, and I home. Giving me appointments to meet with a Neurologist and a Neurosurgeon for a few days away. I went on the next couple days just thinking “why me, what did I do?” It took a long time to sink in. I have always lived by an “it happens” way of life, and “everything happens for a reason”. So what is the reason for this? Why did this have to happen? My life had changed. I could no longer be left alone, or run down the street for a quart of milk. I was completely co-dependent on my wife. Driving was my life, I loved to drive everywhere. But looking back, this co-dependent relationship has made us a much stronger couple.

Well after getting the doctors’ approval, we went to Yellowknife for Christmas. That’s when it started to hit me. “Maybe we were supposed to come home and I wasn’t supposed to be in the Army” Well after a great time at Christmas I have come to accept that as a possibility as to why everything happened. I just wish it never happened that way, but whatever. Like I said before, It happens. The whole time we where in Yellowknife, there were no more seizures or symptoms. The only thing were side effects due to Dilantin overdose. My Neurologist tells me I have a high metabolic rate so I need a high dose to stop me from seizing. 200 mg TID. That seemed like a lot to me. Little did I know what there was to follow.

I returned from Yellowknife and saw my neurologist in January. He decided that because of the side effects, he would take me off the Dilantin, and put me on Tegretol. This was when everything started to go downhill. I started to seize. At first, around once every other week. Then they started to progress. After many trips to the hospital, and many seizure later, I ended up on Three agents. 200 mg Dilantin TID, 400mg Tegretol TID and Clobazam 20mg BID. I couldn’t believe how many pills I was taking. To me it seemed like a lot but I just waited patiently till I heard anything else. I was kept off work on sick leave, which being in the military, helped my family more then ever. I still got my normal pay, and I can only imagine how people with sever illnesses manage. It was hard enough having my wife home not working to look after to me and our son. To those people I tip my hat because I don’t know if my wife and I would have been able to live in any other situation. But enough about that.

Now for another date. 23rd March 2012. My wife and I finally get married. It was the second best day of my life. Next to Nathan being born. It was such a great day, but the worst part was knowing what was to come. Knowing that in just 4 short days, I would be laying on an operating table in Saint John, NB for my surgery.

On the morning of the 27th We headed into Saint John Regional Hospital to have myself checked in for surgery. I went through day surgery, and was prepped and was put in a bed waiting to go to the OR for my awake craniotomy. So many thoughts went through my head. ” Am I going to be able to walk again? Will I ever come out of this? What will happen with my family”?

I know, not really things that someone like me should or would be thinking. But you just never know. Especially when working on the brain, so close to the Motor Strip.

I remember laying there with my wife and son, just clutching her hand, and holding him as tight as I could. The nurse was in and out of the waiting room checking on us and making sure I was comfortable. Then just before I was whisked off to the OR the Neurosurgeon came in and said, “Now Matthew, just so you know we are going to give you local anaesthetic before we cut you open because you will be awake the whole time, except the incision we will put you under” I thought, “Needles… Pfft”

What I didn’t know was it was going to consist of seven full bore needles going into my skull! What an experience. I mean I have been around the hospital my whole life, with my mom being sick, my sister being a nurse, and now me being sick all the time. I never expected the pain I was about to endure. Imagine an LP done on your brain 7 times! Maybe not that bad, but that’s how I remember it.

After all the freezing was done I was slightly put under, just enough to make the incision, and cut my skull open. When I awoke, I remember seeing an entire room full of people. The entire Neuro team in Saint John, the anesthesiologist, just a room full of people. I had one person holding my right hand and talking to me to entire time. The biggest parts of the surgery that I remember where my neurosurgeon saying, “Ok Matthew, can you move your feet,hands and say something?”

It reached the point where I was squeezing the nurses hand all the time and just talking away and slightly moving my foot. Just so he didn’t have to ask me. The surgery was around three hours, and according to the team, everything went better then expected. After they got in, they found out they weren’t dealing with a cyst, but a tumour, a lot of more pressure, and of course they where concerned. The good thing was hearing that there was no complications. Now for the hard parts.

The rest of the day I remained in the Neuro ICU, where I barely moved, just laid there. I was still trying to accept everything and understand what had just happened. Everything seemed so surreal. I was so glad when my wife and son came in and I finally got to see them. That probably was my biggest fear was loosing them. My son is my whole world, and I would hate for him to have to grow up with out a father like I did. (Little back story, my father walked out on my family when I was very young. I resent that and I want my son to have everything I never did.) Now the next challenge was to wait till tomorrow to see if I could walk.

I spent all night passed right out from medications. I couldn’t wait for the morning so the Occupational Therapist could come. He showed up and I was allowed to sit up. I played with some putty and did a few motor skill test. (I’m still not the same, I have no balance and can’t walk straight, and have a major issue with my right arm.)

Then came the big test. He slowly helped me up, and using him and my IV pole, I walked down the little hall of the ICU. We did that every day till I was discharged. I was finally discharged on the 30th and sent home, but not before finding out that I still have 15-20% of the tumour left in my brain. Now granted, I am lucky. The pathology came back as a level 1 glioma. The “best” tumour I could hope for. Still a tumour, but non-malignant. Which for a 22 year old with a young family, is the best thing he could hear.

Since then I still have been battling with the seizures, about every other day. I am now on 5 agents, and just wish something would work. They are only partials, but they are painful. I am still off work for the foreseeable future as I can barley do anything without seizing. The big kick in the butt is that I am going to be released from the Army. Something I love to do. But, as I said before, maybe it wasn’t meant to be.

So now it’s just battling the seizures and trying to get on with my life. A little hard when your pretty much a zombie due to medications, but life shall go on. I must say thank you to all my friends and family for their support. You guys have helped me though some rough times. Especially my Sister and my Mother and Step-Mother-in-law( she says I can just call her Mom). When I don’t know where to go or what to do I turn to them. Family is one of the most important things in life. They are always there for you no matter what.

I know that my story is a little different. It wasn’t supposed to be a life story but once I got writing I felt that I just had to say everything.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story.

I would like to take the time to thank my Neurologist Dr. Muhammad Shafiq, and my Neurosurgeon Dr. Najmedden Attabib. Both very wonderful people. Thank you for very possibly saving my life.

Share This

Featured Story

Childhood Brain Tumour Signs & Symptoms

Earlier this year, you gave us your feedback in a survey on brain tumour signs and symptoms. One of the things we did with that survey was to compile a list of the most common signs & symptoms for children. Now, as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we are sharing compelling quotes from that survey and urging you to share them with this link to see the symptoms: Thank you!

Learn more


Anthony's Story is Our Story

I would like to take the opportunity to share "our" story. It’s actually my best friend Anthony's story, but I use the term "our"...

Learn more

Kate's Mum's Story

"May 2006 is a month I will never forget. That was the moment that everything became before the cancer, and after the cancer. It was a...

Learn more

Upcoming Events

  • 17/Oct/2018: Windsor Support Group: Meets at the United Way, Unit A1, 300 Giles Blvd. East... Learn more >
  • 17/Oct/2018: Calgary Support Group: Meets at Wellspring Calgary, 1404 Home Road NW, Calgary, Alberta, T3B 1G7... Learn more >
  • 17/Oct/2018: Niagara Region Support Group: Meets at Wellspring Niagara, 3250 Schmon Parkway, Thorold, ON, L2V 4Y6... Learn more >
  • 17/Oct/2018: Winnipeg Support Group: Sturgeon Creek United Church, 207 Thompson Drive, Winnipeg, MB... Learn more >
View All Events >
Thank you to the donors whose contributions make this website and all programs, services and research possible.

Copyright © 2018 Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Charitable Registration #BN118816339RR0001