Patrick's Story: Hakuna Matata

Patrick's Story: Hakuna Matata
Patrick lives every day with Kevin. Well, the effects Kevin had on Patrick’s life, that is. Kevin changed Patrick’s life forever, and it all started three and a half years ago in 2012. Kevin is the name Patrick gave his brain tumour. 
It was early during Patrick’s university education that he started having severe headaches. Vision troubles were checked but an optometrist couldn’t find a reason for Patrick’s sight changes, and when he woke up one day from a nap, sobbing uncontrollably, that was the final push to go to the local ER. “It was almost a fight to get me there,” recalls Patrick. “I had an anatomy test that I didn’t want to miss if I got stuck in the hospital for some reason.” Together with his mom, Patrick went to the ER and was admitted for an MRI scan booked the following day. From there, Patrick says things happened quickly. “It was so abrupt. The doctor came in shortly after my scan, telling me I had a brain tumour and that I needed to get to another hospital for immediate treatment. It was a massive shock.” 
Despite the jarring news, Patrick his dad decided to find the humour in the serious situation, nicknaming the mass in the MRI images, “Kevin.” Based on an inside joke about a reality TV show character, Patrick says humour was a tremendous help in getting through his diagnosis and subsequent treatments.   
Three brain surgeries took place over the next three months, and Patrick’s life was in upheaval. Previously a varsity swimmer and promising student, Patrick had to make some major life changes because of Kevin. Something as simple as a sneeze could send Patrick back to the hospital. “I couldn’t do anything that would create pressure in my brain – not even drink through a straw!” he adds. It was during Patrick’s third operation that doctors could see how aggressive the brain tumour was. What was a typically non-malignant type of tumour, a craniopharyngioma, for Patrick was acting incredibly aggressive. As his surgeon explained, Patrick’s case was the most complicated he’d seen in his 13-year career. 
With short recuperation from his operations, 30 rounds of radiation were the next recommended course of action and that’s when Patrick says the significance of what he was going through really hit him. “I wasn’t going back to school. I was starting radiation when I should have been studying or going out with friends.”
The photo above shows Patrick on his last day of radiation before ringing the bell at the Ottawa cancer center on May 27, 2013. 
Today it’s been three and a half years since Patrick learned about Kevin, and in that time he’s had to adjust to a new normal. Blind in his left eye and on at least 4 different medications for the rest of his life, Patrick’s enthusiasm and determination hasn’t waned. He even sees his experience as an added benefit to his future nursing career, given his first-hand understanding of what some patients may be going through. Patrick also wants to help other people diagnosed with a brain tumour stay positive and motivated to get through their journey. “My mantra – hakuna matata, no worries – was something that really carried me through the past few years. It helped me live in the present and one day at a time. If there’s any way telling my story can help someone else, I’m happy to share.” 
For the last two years, Patrick has participated in Brain Tumour Walk events with his team the Tumournators in Sudbury. This year, he's joining the Titanium Plates in North Bay. Brain Tumour Walk is the annual community event that brings together survivors, patients, families and friends to show their support for everyone affected by a brain tumour. The 2016 North Bay Brain Tumour Walk takes place on Sunday, June 5, 2016 at the North Bay Museum and Kate Pace Way. 
Thank you Patrick, for sharing your story and for joining the movement to end brain tumours!

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