Brian's Story: “I’m fighting this cancer inside and out”

Brian's Story: “I’m fighting this cancer inside and out”
“I look better than ever!” – it’s a statement you might hear when someone is newly retired and finally has the time to workout and eat properly. But for Brian Cole, it’s what comes after that exclamation that sets him apart. “I look better than ever!” he says, continuing, “but I have terminal brain cancer and might not see my retirement now.”
 
Brian, 47, was diagnosed with brain cancer in December 2014. And while this remarkable survivor says the news was an incredible blow, it’s also given him a new perspective on life. “What I saw when I was undergoing radiation… I was in the same area as young patients getting the exact same treatment I was – me, a fully grown man. I knew then I wanted what time I have left to be spent trying to make a difference for these kids.”
 
Looking back on the days leading up to his diagnosis, Brian didn’t have any longstanding symptoms that raised concerns. It was what he describes as “an episode” at work that pushed Brian to go to his doctor. “There was this harsh chemical stench in the office and I asked my colleagues if they could smell it too. It was so strong there was no way they couldn’t, I thought. But then they said they couldn’t smell anything strange.” A trip to his family doctor found nothing out of sorts, despite the odd experience Brian had had. When it happened a second time the following day, Brian and his wife Michelle decided it was time to go to their local ER. With no MRI on site, Brian had a CT scan at the hospital, the results of which resulted in Brian being admitted until an MRI appointment was available at a nearby facility. “Clearly they’d found something since they needed to keep me for a couple days. That’s when you can’t help but start to worry.”
 
Once able to get transferred to the next hospital for his MRI, things continued to snowball. 
 
The MRI showed a mass on Brian’s brain, and he and Michelle were told they could get in with a Mississauga neurosurgeon that same evening and that immediate surgery is a must. It just so happened that one of Brian’s employees was married to a nurse practitioner so Brian quickly called his colleague for guidance. “Hassan chatted with his wife Nahed and she recommended I get to Western Hospital in Toronto, where she knew they had a team known for treating brain cancer.”
 
Brian and Michelle made the trip to Toronto and were quickly admitted. Following a second MRI to confirm the first’s findings, the couple met with a neurosurgeon who said that, yes, surgery was an option but not urgent. Thinking it over for a couple of days, Brian called the surgeon and asked him outright for his opinion on when he would do the operation, if he were in Brian’s shoes. “When he told me he’d do it sooner rather than later, that was it. I knew I was going to get the surgery done as soon as I could.” 
 
Right before the winter holidays of 2014, Brian underwent an awake craniotomy and the mass on the left side of his brain was biopsied. It was a risky procedure as the tumour was near Brian’s motor function centre, so only enough tissue was removed for diagnosis. It was brain cancer, it was terminal but could hopefully be controlled with radiation and daily chemotherapy. 
 
Starting five weeks of simultaneous chemo and radiation, Brian was treated in Toronto at the same centre where patients from SickKids Hospital also go. “It was hard seeing the decorations for kids, seeing children in strollers so sick or even some able to walk in for their treatments looking perfectly normal, but coming for the same radiation I was. You start looking at things differently,” Brian explains. 
 
By the fourth week of Brian’s five-week treatment plan, his health started to decline and required him to stop chemotherapy. It was a struggle for Brian to accept, as he felt without the two methods he wouldn’t be able to slow the cancer. One night, Brian says he made up his mind to re-focus and concentrate on paying forward the generosity he was extended throughout his brain cancer journey so far. “For me, it became about wanting to do only things really important in life.”
 
Brian was able to eventually complete his treatment and is on daily chemotherapy to manage the brain cancer. This past June, he and his loved ones joined their first Toronto Brain Tumour Walk as Team Children’s Future. Raising a massive $50,000 and counting, Brian was amazed at the support he was shown for his burgeoning new goal in life. 
 
Today, Brian’s looking ahead to the 2017 Brain Tumour Walk and planning how he can maximize donations, coming up with creative ways to meet his next fundraising target. 
 
With his life priorities shifted, Brian says it’s been a mix of clean eating, physical activity and his new motivation to help young brain cancer patients that’s allowed him to settle into his positive mindset. “I’m fighting this cancer inside and out – by trying to take care of my own health and trying to fundraise as much as I can for Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada.”
Brian would like to specially thank those he credits with playing major roles in his ongoing brain cancer journey: 

Heartfelt gratitude is extended to Hassan Tannir and his wife, Nahed; Brian’s family and loved ones; and to his employer, Loblaws, who truly rallied around Brian and contributed significantly to his fundraising for the 2016 Toronto Brain Tumour Walk.
We would like to thank you Brian! For sharing your story and for your fundraising. The movement to end brain tumours is stronger because of you!

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2016


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