Olivia’s Brain Tumour Story

Olivia’s Brain Tumour Story

Olivia Hughes is a twenty-year-old student at Macewan University, entering the third year of her Bachelors of English degree. She wants to travel the world, and last summer began by traveling through Alberta and British Colombia on her own by working along the way, couchsurfing, and hitchhiking. She’s involved as an executive in multiple Literature collectives at Macewan University, works as a team lead for Homeward Trust’s bi-annual Homeless Connect event in Edmonton, is this years “Edmonton Brain Tumour Walk’s” social media co-ordinator, and is an active member within the Alberta arts community, with work often inspired through her medical journey.

Olivia began having temporal lobe seizures at the age of nine and was officially diagnosed with a non-operable, brain tumour at the age of eleven. At the time there was nothing to do but attempt to treat her epilepsy; which is an ongoing battle. Because of its location in her brain, a biopsy to determine the tumour’s malignancy is not an option.

Olivia will be the first to tell you that she is not her tumour. While it is a significant part of her life, she will never be defined by it. She has never known life without a tumour. Some of her earliest memories are in the offices of neurologists, and she’s grown up dealing with the unpredictability of her body.
What set’s Olivia’s story apart from many brain tumour warriors is that because her tumour is assumed non-malignant, her battle has been centered on managing the unknown, and the uncontrolled, as opposed to the perils of surgery and recovery. 
Temporal lobe epilepsy has been the biggest medical hurdle for her. A very misunderstood form of epilepsy, TLE affects all five of Olivia’s senses. Meaning, that through both “complex partial” and “simple partial” seizures Olivia’s sense of smell is manipulated, her hearing is distorted, she hallucinates, hears voices, her body tingles and jerks (even while being fully conscious), she can quickly lose mobility of her body; her circulation can drop suddenly to make her skin appear grey, as well as a very rapid internal temperature drop, leaving her extremely tired and feeling as though she’s ‘lost a day or two.’
The medication Olivia has been on for over a decade to combat her epilepsy is proving to be the hardest for her to handle. By taking nutrients from her system, Olivia’s joints (specifically her knees), teeth, and daily energy levels, are degrading rapidly, leaving her often in pain and exhausted from a normal day. This degradation has resulted in her often requiring the use of a cane to walk, as her knees and legs may seize, or become very painful without warning, leaving her unable to move without a mobility aid. 
However, you try telling Olivia that she can’t do something because of these issues and you’ll see just how swiftly she’ll cut you down. Not one to jeopardize her health, Olivia isn’t about making sure she proves anyone wrong – she’s about living the best life she can. For her this means: finishing her degree, working jobs she loves, living on her own, loving herself and others, encouraging everyone she sees, spreading peace, spreading love, and being a person others can depend on. 
Thank you Olivia for joining the movement to end brain tumours. The movement is stronger because of you!

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