Lesley-Ann's Story: Still teaching in some ways

Lesley-Ann's Story: Still teaching in some ways

A high school teacher for 19 years, Lesley-Ann Senior is, “still teaching in some ways” after her six craniotomies. 

Lesley-Ann was born with a craniopharyngioma, a non-malignant tumour that occurs in childhood but in Lesley-Ann’s case was not detected until 1994 when Lesley-Ann was an adult.  While non-malignant, the tumour was very aggressive leading to multiple surgeries. “At one point they had barely taken the staples out before they found more growth and had to go back in” remembers Lesley-Ann.  These surgeries were typically 13 hours long and in one surgery Lesley-Ann was hung upside down to find a way to access the tumour. Only in 1997 for the sixth surgery did they remove enough of the tumour. 
“I was so glad when the terminology changed from ‘benign’ to ‘non-malignant,’” Lesley-Ann remarked because she knows all too well the significant impact of a brain tumour. Her tumour was located on her pituitary gland causing many problems for her, and scar tissue from her many surgeries has left her with a seizure disorder. She says, “This non-malignant tumour changed my whole life, changed everything in my body”.
Lesley-Ann credits her incredible family and friends for where she is today.  For example, it was her sister who first heard of the local brain tumour support group and told Lesley-Ann they needed to go. Her first reaction was that she was sick of hearing about brain tumours. Because her tumour was so rare, she wasn’t sure if anyone would be able to relate to her. Imagine her surprise when there were not one but two people at the support group with the exact same tumour.  
Today, 12 years later, Lesley-Ann is the facilitator of the Ajax Brain Tumour Support Group along with her co-facilitators Cindy and Elaine and the group’s convenor Hazel.  
Lesley-Ann sums up the impact of a brain tumour support group like this: “The importance of support in the recovery process of a person with a brain tumour cannot be underestimated.  As both a survivor and a facilitator I realize this.  When I first joined the group as a member I was adverse to the idea; however the importance of being able to network with others living with brain tumours soon became apparent to me. When the opportunity to volunteer as a facilitator arose I welcomed the chance to give back some of what the group had given to me: support, empathy and friendship.”  
When asked what advice Lesley-Ann has for others facing a brain tumour, this former teacher shares a list: 
1. “Advocate for yourself! Don’t be afraid to ask questions, that’s how you learn.
2. Your pharmacist should be your best friend. 
3. Try your best to be positive. It’s okay to be angry, but it’s dangerous to stay that way. You have to go through a grief, and recovery process. In some ways it’s like your previous self has died, but you can learn to accept who you are now.”
In addition to the support group, Lesley-Ann also gives back to Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada in many other ways. She has shared her story at Brain Tumour Information Days and has helped raise awareness at local schools. She also contributed to the development of the storybook ‘A Friend in Hope’, written for children and parents and also to provide teachers with a way to explain school absences when a classmate has a brain tumour. 
Today Lesley-Ann stays physically and mentally active by going to her local gym daily and has an increased awareness of the importance of healthy eating.  When she looks back on her long experience as a brain tumour survivor, she says she’s, “very lucky to be alive and must still be here for some reason.”  Maybe she’s here to teach everyone affected by a brain tumour:

“Don’t be afraid to reach out for support. It’s there. You just have to reach for it”.

Thank you Lesley-Ann, for sharing your story and for volunteering!
This "Thank you Lesley-Ann" image was used during National Volunteer Week 2015 to demonstrate how volunteers are part of a ripple effect, their actions having far reaching consequences. 

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Story posted: April 2015

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