John's Story: “I'm going to do as much as I can with each day”

John's Story: “I'm going to do as much as I can with each day”
When John Hatcher laces up his running shoes on Saturday, October 2, 2016, he joins over a dozen of his family members and friends for the Newfoundland & Labrador Brain Tumour Walk as team Astro-Blasters. "It's our first year," he explains, "and knowing first-hand how little is said or recognized about brain tumours, we want to help any way we can." 
 
Over the past eight years, John has undergone radiation, multiple brain surgeries and, now, chemotherapy for the tumour once located on the right side of his brain. Laughing, he looks back on his journey and jokingly says he can't believe that losing his hearing was one of the best things to ever happen to him. "Discovering the tumour was a total fluke," he adds, "but without going in to find out why I had sudden hearing loss on my left side, it might never have been found!" 
 
It turned out the auditory troubles John experienced were completely unrelated to the mass an MRI scan uncovered. The small, low-grade tumour in John's parietal lobe may have been there for years; but with no symptoms to indicate any changes in his health, without that coincidental hearing loss, the St. John's, NFLD resident could have gone many more years before the tumour became a concern.  
 
With no significant impact on John's day-to-day, doctors decided to monitor the tumour with regular MRIs, watching for any changes to the mass. It was during the summer of 2011, three years since his initial diagnosis, that one of John's scans showed tumour growth. Brain surgery removed the mass and a 6-week course of radiation followed as added treatment; a biopsy identified the tumour as an Grade II astrocytoma.  
 
For the next four years, John and his health care team continued with MRI scans of the tumour site. It was in November 2015, when again, John and his family would be at the centre of another medical crisis – first with John's father being diagnosed with terminal esophageal cancer, then with a recurrence of the tumour in John's brain, and finally with his eldest daughter, Julie, being treated for a gallbladder attack at the same time both John and his dad were struggling with their health. It was an incredibly difficult time for the Hatchers and John says that without the tremendous support of their loved ones and community, and especially Gail, his wife of over 20 years, it would have been all that much harder. "I'm just so grateful for all the generosity and kindness people extended us. Even today still, when I look back over the past 10 months, I never had to touch a shovel in the winter and the food and gift cards people collected and dropped off at the house... it was simply amazing." 
 
"After you get through that first shock of being diagnosed, especially since I had no symptoms of the tumour, things felt very hopeful. Even with first operation, the surgeon got everything so I still felt ok. Now it's more real though, and things seem to change each time we visit the doctor. We've tried pretty much every treatment, so I admit it's worrying, but we keep our fingers crossed for the future." 
 
Today, John, Gail, Julie and the youngest daughter, Jenna, are preparing for the annual fundraising walk hosted by Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. Julie, who'd previously taken part in a different charity walk, figured there had to be something local that was more directly connected to her dad. "A Google search brought me to Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada's website and I quickly signed us up in the spring to join the October walk!" she explains. For John, the weekend – which comes just after his next MRI scan – is another step forward in the face of uncertainty. And while he can't predict what's to come for the future, John insists on staying positive. "I say, 'Take every day as it comes.' As long as I can get out of bed, I'm going to do as much as I can with each day."
Thank you to John, for sharing your story and for joining the movement to end brain tumours! The movement is stronger because of you!

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