Dealing with a Diagnosis and a Recurrence

Dealing with a Diagnosis and a Recurrence

My name is Yaron Butterfield and I was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in February 2004.  After a period of remission, the cancer recurred a year and a half later;  even when the cancer returns, tumour reduction can happen.  I am an example of this and I hope my experience provides you with some inspiration and hope moving forward. 

Approximately a year after completing chemotherapy and radiation, feeling positive, I gradually got stronger and had more energy. I was even able to travel to Iceland and took part in a marathon there. The full marathon, plus traveling with some sleepless nights, drinking and not eating healthy, was perhaps just too much. By October 2005, the cancer returned.  This was devastating to hear and after two months on a clinical trial drug, it had doubled in size.  
 
While we have yet to find a cure, there is progress every year with new drugs and new techniques. In my case, I was placed back on temozolomide – one of the more common treatments for GBM.  I recall thinking at that time that if that did not work, there are other things to try. Over the course of 8 months, the tumour decreased significantly in size. That was almost 9 years ago and I have had clear MRIs ever since. I've realized that a fine balance of staying active mentally and physically while giving your mind, body and soul time to rest and heal is crucial.
 
It's also important to know that cancer is essentially caused by changes in a person’s DNA, and what works for one person may not work for another person. A drug given to one individual might suppress cancer growth or eliminate it while it may not work at all or have negative side effects for a second individual. Researchers have made discoveries about specific genetic changes associated with some forms of brain cancer. This knowledge could eventually lead to treatments that target these unique features of an individual’s tumour. I take some comfort in knowing that if the cancer returns again, we might have new treatments.
 
I remember well the moment I was told that the tumour was growing again and that the support of family and friends was very helpful at that time. Attending support groups was also comforting.  I remained hopeful and employed whatever methods I could to help me feel like I was in control. Even now, I look at my daughter and tell myself that I am obligated to do anything and everything I can to heal and remain healthy for her sake.
 
Yaron Butterfield
Brain cancer survivor and researcher at the BC Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre
 
Thank you Yaron for sharing your story of survival and hope, as well as your tips for others to stay strong.
 
Photo by Vancouver Sun
 

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