Rick's Story: Find the Help You Need and Deserve

Rick's Story: Find the Help You Need and Deserve

When an odd stroke of luck ended up with Winnipeg firefighter Rick Negrich getting a CT scan, the last thing he expected was to be diagnosed with a brain tumour.

In January 2013, Rick was working a Friday on-shift at a local firehall when his crew got a call. While on dispatch to the scene, Rick’s fire truck was t-boned at an intersection, with Rick’s head hitting the side of the truck so hard he saw stars. Paramedics were soon on site and recommended Rick visit the ER for a more thorough check-up, in case of concussion. Once at the hospital, where it was surprisingly quiet and calm, a radiologist stopped by asking Rick if he wanted a CT scan to double-check for possible brain injury. Rick decided it was better safe than sorry and agreed to the scan. 

Sitting in the hallway a short time later, Rick waited for his results. “That’s when I saw the doctors and nurses looking at my charts and one even gasped. I could read their body language and knew then and there something was very wrong,” Rick recalls. The physician on duty came to Rick to share the news, and admitted the situation was his worst nightmare – Rick had a mandarin-sized tumour in the frontal lobe of his brain. “I didn’t want to believe it; I just couldn’t understand what this doctor was telling me. How could I not feel something so big growing inside my head?”

Staying in the hospital overnight, Rick underwent more tests to confirm there weren’t other tumours in his body. Thankfully, the following morning, all results came back clear. It’s then that Rick phoned his wife, Teresa, about his unexpected circumstances. “She was out of town with our youngest son at a hockey tournament in Prince Albert. Knowing it would panic her otherwise, I decided to say I was in the ER with a possible concussion. Turns out our youngest son – the hockey player – ended up with a mild concussion that weekend too!” When all of the family was home on Sunday evening, Rick broke the news of the brain tumour diagnosis to his wife.

Three weeks after that fateful trip to the ER, Rick underwent surgery to remove most of the large mass on his brain. Recovery went smoothly and for more than a year, Rick’s health was stable and monitored with repeated scans. But in the summer of 2014, the veteran firefighter’s family noticed odd changes in his behaviour and a regularly scheduled MRI uncovered a tumour recurrence in Rick’s brain. Just over one month later, Rick had his second operation, this time with total resection of the tumour. “Now we’re moving forward and reading everything we can about brain tumours. We’re tackling this so differently than the first time,” he adds.

Rick learned about Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada when he was first diagnosed, but admits that at the time, the support group he connected with wasn’t a fit for him. “I thought I was fine, because the tumour was non-malignant and removed, but I was wrong. There were lots of other things happening that my family and I needed help with.”  

Looking back on recent years, and even to those leading up to that initial hospital visit, Rick and his loved ones can now understand just how deeply the brain tumour impacted his moods and behaviours. “No one had taken the time to explain to me how I would feel or be different because of the tumours. Meeting a neuropsychologist changed all that.” 

If there is one thing Rick can share with other patients facing the brain tumour journey, it’s the importance of knowledge and communication. “After my surgeries, people would tell me I looked great so I must have been doing ok. Truthfully, I was angry all the time and would snap at the littlest thing. Finding a professional to speak with has helped me and my family figure out the impact, mentally and emotionally, of this journey. And not just for me, but for them as well. Teresa and our sons have been traumatized by this whole experience too.”

Today, Teresa can spot patterns in Rick’s behaviours and their two kids better understand why their dad has moments of frustration or anxiety. “We’re doing so much better than we were a year ago, being more aware of what to expect with my emotions as a result of the tumour and treatment,” Rick says. “The future is a lot brighter for us now.”

 

Thank you for sharing your story Rick!

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Story posted: January 2016


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