A Fresh Perspective – James’ Story

  July 13, 2020

A lot can happen in 24 hours .

Sometimes, it’s enough to completely change a person’s perspective on life.

For James Kenny, it was the day he went from the MRI machine to the surgery table to the recovery bed.

However, it took about five months of symptoms and hospital visits for James to get a proper diagnosis. In October 2018, he began to have migraines. He was given medication and sent home. Multiple trips to the emergency room later, James knew it was something more than that, but he had to be adamant in order to get the proper diagnosis and treatment.

In February 2019, James went to the hospital in Milton with a terrible headache and blurry vision.

He refused to take no for an answer when he demanded a CT or MRI scan.

“It took me three times in an emergency to say ‘What’s going on?’” he said. “You have to be your own self-advocate.”

The scan uncovered a pituitary brain tumour the size of a small lime – a necrotic gonadotropa adenoma.

From there, he was rushed via CritiCall  to Mississauga Trillium Hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery to have a transsphenoidal resection completed.James Kenney and his family

Surgery went well – within four hours James was done. However, that 24 hours was a rush of emotion.

“I went in thinking ‘Oh my god I have a brain tumour.’” He said. “I looked at my dad and asked him, “”I’m going to die.””

James’ wife, Biljana, was by his side throughout his whole treatment, sleeping in his hospital room at night. His parents would come during the day to keep him occupied. Not only did it boost his spirits, but it also helped him kick his 16-year smoking habit.

“Knowing me, Id’ try to get outside and have a smoke if I had the opportunity,” he says with a laugh. “I appreciate all my family members putting up with all that I went through… standing beside me no matter what.”

The tumour had taken a toll on his pituitary gland, his hormone levels were very low. Following surgery, his pituitary gland began to slowly recover and his vision went back to 20/20.

The last remnant of his resection is a piece of degradable surgical gauze used to control bleeding during surgery. It’s a reminder of how far James has come.

Now, he takes things day by day.

“That’s all you can do,” he says. “Living every day to its fullest while taking it one day at a time.”

On the advice of his medical team, James went to Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s website where he was able to find information on his tumour, as well as other resources and information on programs like the Brain Tumour Walk. He even took part in the 2019 Hats for Hope campaign.

“I wear it throughout the winter now,” he says. “It’s for a great cause and a great fashion statement.”

It was reading through the stories on braintumour.ca that inspired James to tell his own, and share what hope looks like from his perspective.

His brain tumour experience has left James a changed man, one dedicated to taking care of his physical and mental health. The diagnosis, surgery and recovery was traumatic, and is managing through it.

James says he’s become a more considerate person now, always looking at the big picture, and giving people the benefit of the doubt.

James hasn’t had a cigarette since the day he found out he had a brain tumour as it was a promise made to his neurosurgeon, Dr. Kis, and his brother, Mike. Now, he goes to the gym and looks after himself physically and mentally.

“I want to do everything positive I can to reduce any type of recurrence,” he says. “Anything I can do to have a positive impact on my life.”

In this day and age, he says, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by negativity in our news feeds and in conversation. However, it’s during those times when a person has to stop and take stock of the information available before reaching any conclusions.James and his daughter at Canada's Wonderland

In James’ case, that meant tempering the negative news of his diagnosis until more information was available.

“Not every brain tumour is an automatic death sentence,” he says. “The diagnosis is bad, but until you know for sure, who knows? It could be a new chance at life. If the outcome is positive, you get a new chance on-life.”

James is seizing that chance and is also giving back by donating to Mississauga Trillium Hospital neurosurgery unit and various foundations to pay the care he received forward. Telling his story is another one of the ways James is reaching out, even as he is working through his experience.

His biggest piece of advice to anyone going through a similar diagnosis and treatment: “You and your family will go through trials and tribulations, but the biggest thing is you have to stay mentally and physically strong for yourself and your family.”

Hope is the most powerful source of that strength. When hope runs low, your mind starts to go to scary places, he says. Being mentally strong means that good or bad, you just need to take it one day at a time.

James says he’s always had a hard time expressing feelings and emotions, and even with his new lease on life, he may never find the right words to properly express his gratitude for his neurosurgeon.

But, he says, if he ever wins the lottery any machines they need for the neurosurgery unit they will get.