Sarah's Story: "Making A Life"

Sarah's Story: "Making A Life"

As school kicked off this September for another year, graduate student Sarah Patterson was just one month past her 5-hour brain tumour surgery and less than six months had gone by since her initial diagnosis. The first half of 2015 has been full of ups and downs for this Victoria, BC mom of two.

What started as an unusual, sharp sensation behind Sarah’s left ear was eventually pinpointed months later as a symptom of non-malignant tumour growth stretching the meninges of her brain. “It was a process that seemed like an eternity to figure out but really it was less than eight months from the initial head pain that sent me to the doctor until the surgery to remove the tumour.”

Sarah was bringing her two-year-old son in for a check-up in February 2015 and happened to ask the doctor about the unusual head pain she had been experiencing. He ordered a CT scan which took place about a month later. When Sarah saw the doctor he told her that any time you have an intense pain that stops you in your tracks you should get it checked out, so when she had sharp stomach pains a month later Sarah admitted herself to the local emergency room thinking her appendix might have been the problem. While in the hospital for what turned out to be an ovarian cyst, Sarah asked about the results of the recent CT scan. “Standing in the hospital hall alone – in my pajamas – that’s when the ER doctor told me I have a brain tumour,” she remembers. “I was in total shock.”

With a print out of her brain scan in-hand, Sarah returned home and in April 2015, would undergo her first MRI. Her neurosurgeon had initially scheduled a follow-up appointment for a few days after the MRI, but when he saw the results he rescheduled for two months later. “I took that as a very good sign,” Sarah says. At her follow-up appointment in June she was given options for the timing of surgery. She chose to have a craniotomy as soon as possible to remove the meningioma, as “having a brain tumour was like having a constant dark cloud hanging over me,” she explains. Knowing she planned to return to school in the fall but needed six weeks to recover from brain surgery, Sarah worked with her family and surgeon to come up with timing that would fit that schedule.

On August 7, 2015, Sarah underwent invasive brain surgery that removed the tumour but required attaching a titanium plate to her skull, behind her left ear. Laughing, Sarah says the surgery was the least of her worries as, “All I had to do was show up. It’s the recovery that was tough! It was humbling to be taken care of like an infant,” she says. “And that first week post-op was definitely interesting!” 

Throughout the course of her brain tumour journey, Sarah decided to write about her experiences on her blog, so that she could keep all of her family and friends out of province informed. It turns out that blogging had another benefit too: “I found that once I put my story out there, I had so much support. People I hadn’t talked to in years sent me messages and it almost felt like everyone I knew was connected to someone with a brain tumour. I also made a number of connections with other brain tumour patients. Had I not put everything out there, I’d never have known any of this and these connections wouldn’t have been made.”

You can read about Sarah’s brain tumour journey on
Thank you Sarah for sharing your story! 

Photo credit: Lily & Lane Photography.

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Story posted: October 2015 

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