Benoit's Story: "There’s no tempting Lucky Number 7!”

Benoit's Story: "There’s no tempting Lucky Number 7!”
For 30-year-old Benoit Poudrier, the past three years have been a journey to say the least. But despite six brain surgeries, meningitis, and blood clots in his legs due to hospital stays, this brain tumour survivor has kept his sense of humour. “I had six brain surgeries total by April 2015, and I certainly don’t want anymore. For me, there’s no tempting Lucky Number 7!”
Ben, as he prefers to be called, says he experienced symptoms for quite some time before doctors discovered the culprit behind his mobility and vertigo troubles. It was a trip to an ear, nose and throat specialist that also revealed Ben wasn’t experiencing hearing loss as he’d thought: “I actually couldn’t understand the words that were coming out of the doctor’s mouth – it wasn’t that I was losing my hearing at all.” In a short time, Ben went from a thriving young man to requiring a cane for balance and constant slurred speech. 
Putting aside his health concerns, Ben was determined to make a visit to see his parents in the Yukon. His mom, who worked in one of their small town’s medical offices, was shocked to see the difficulties her son was experiencing. “That’s when she took me in to see the doctor,” explains Ben. With limited resources and equipment in the Yukon town, the doctor’s best estimation at what was causing Ben’s symptoms was multiple sclerosis. “Since I was from Fredericton, they recommended I return home and get more thoroughly examined. So my 2-week vacation got cut short to 4 days,” he adds, laughing.  
On his flight back to New Brunswick, Ben says he spent the time trying to come to terms with potentially having MS. Twelve hours later and landed, he was in a local hospital waiting for scans to confirm the diagnosis he’d received in the Yukon. The results of an MRI and a CT scan showed something that wasn’t MS-related though: Ben had a large mass on his brain, and it had grown so big that it was stopping spinal fluid from circulating. 
A biopsy verified the tumour type as a rare germinoma, and Ben needed a tube surgically inserted in his brain to relieve the pressure caused by the stopped spinal fluid. “I couldn’t believe it when doctors told me I’d likely had the tumour since I was born!” 
Due to the tumour’s rarity, figuring out a treatment plan was very complicated – there was no standard of care to work from. Three weeks after his first surgery, doctors decided how to tackle the germinoma in Ben’s brain. Radiation and not removal of the mass was the recommended course of action, due to the inoperable placement of the tumour near Ben’s pituitary gland. For 24 rounds of radiation, half of which were spinal and brain to ensure spinal fluid didn’t carry tumour cells to other parts of his body, Ben shuttled between two Moncton hospitals for treatment and care. Physiotherapy also started halfway through the radiation, helping Ben regain his balance and mobility. 
Given the all clear to return home to Fredericton once the radiation was complete, Ben spent the summer months being cared for by his mom, who had made the trip from the Yukon to be with her son. A routine appointment that September should have been fairly straightforward but ended up with severe complications. Ben caught bacterial meningitis while in hospital getting stitches in his head redone. Admitted immediately, Ben spent another month in hospital. It was that month in bed recovering from the meningitis that caused the blood clots in his legs. “But I wasn’t going to let any of this stop my December 1st goal of getting back to work,” Ben says. And he certainly didn’t. 
Ben returned to his computer programming job that winter as planned. He began to travel for work and things felt like they were returning to normal – Ben even had the opportunity to do a project for his company in Toronto and jumped at the chance for a new adventure. Sadly, in his last month in Toronto in April 2015, life would again turn upside down for Ben. 
“It was the strangest feeling – in the blink of an eye, I had no clue where I was!”
One morning on his way into the Toronto office, Ben recalls that one minute he was conscious and aware of what he was doing, and the next he no longer understood where he was. “My first thought was to call an ambulance but realized I couldn’t tell them where to find me,” Ben explains. Thankfully he was able to call a colleague on his mobile phone, who instructed Ben to ask someone on the street for help. “It’s funny,” Ben starts, “I don’t remember that phone conversation but I do remember doing what he told me to do. That’s about it though – I don’t really remember much of that month.”
Doctors in Toronto found that Ben’s spinal fluid wasn’t draining properly and caused his brain’s ventricles to swell, which explained the almost amnesia-like morning on his way to work. A permanent shunt was needed to ensure this didn’t happen again so Ben went back into surgery. It was after being treated that Ben was also told he’d lost 2 per cent of his short-term memory.
It’s been over a year since that morning in Toronto and Ben is now back at work in Fredericton. He’s part of the local Brain Tumour Support Group, and has been for a couple of years. It’s there he first heard of the Brain Tumour Walk. “As soon as I found out about it, I wanted to do it!”
Ben says that he sometimes struggles with having people understand the changes he’s needed to make to work and live post-brain tumour. “People look at me and don’t see anything wrong. But I struggle sometimes and people get frustrated with me because it’s not obvious that I had a brain tumour.” That’s why he’s decided to fundraise for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada as part of the Fredericton Walk, so that more awareness and education is available, so people are more tolerant and thoughtful. And for this survivor, it’s also a chance to share his story in hopes that other brain tumour patients can find comfort in not feeling alone on their journey. For Ben, “There was always an upside through all this – no matter how bad things got, I could find something positive to think about. That’s what I hope others can find too, that optimism.”
Thank you Ben for sharing your story! The movement to end brain tumours is stronger because of you!

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