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A Tumour Named “Idaho”

  June 17, 2024

Dave Fleischer’s symptoms were easy enough to explain away. His eyesight was deteriorating, but then again, most of his family members wore glasses. His hearing was worsening, but hearing loss ran in his family, too. His terrible headaches, he’d blame on having one too many glasses of wine the night before.

He took a break from drinking, though his headaches didn’t improve. He was mixing up his words, with one instance standing out in his memory.

“As we were leaving the house, I’d ask, ‘Do you have your mouthguard?’” he says.

This was during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he wanted to be sure his family members had their facemasks on hand—not mouthguards, as he mistakenly implied.

It wasn’t until Dave got into a car accident that he figured something might be wrong. He’d wanted to back into a parking spot, though his car was in drive rather than reverse.

“I went forward and I hit a fence post,” he says. “I thought I just damaged the bumper, but I did more than damage the bumper. I had to have a lot of service done to the car after that.”

Looking back, he thinks he might have had a seizure.

“Although I was fully aware of what I was doing, I couldn’t quite hit the brake in time,” Dave says.

Seeking medical help

Dave FleischerFollowing that small, single-car accident with a fence post, his son booked him an eye exam. The eye doctor told him to go to the hospital within the next 24 hours.

“I went to the hospital and it was packed,” Dave says, “so I went home.”

He went to work the next day, with plans to go skiing that evening. He stopped in at the hospital after work, thinking he’d try again the next day if it seemed he’d be waiting awhile. Luckily, he was called in just as he was about to leave.

Dave learned he had a Grade 2 meningioma, which had been sitting on his optic nerve.

“I named it Idaho, because it looked like a big potato.”

Dave, who lives in Kitchener, Ont., was transported to Hamilton, Ont., that same night and underwent surgery the day after. His medical team was fortunately able to remove his tumour in its entirety.

Recovery was fairly quick, though Dave was given relaxants for his pre-discharge MRI that left him feeling a bit too relaxed.

“I’d already gone through the rehab with the physiotherapist,” Dave recalls. “I was able to do the stairs, I was able to sit down, I was able to walk fine. So, the physiotherapist said, ‘Yeah, you can go home.’ The doctor said, ‘Yeah, you can go home.’ And then the drug said, ‘No, you’re not going anywhere.’”

He stayed in the hospital another day, until he felt well enough to return home. As someone who’d been diagnosed with a Grade 2 meningiomameningioma, Dave was a candidate for a study that provided radiation treatments to half its participants and monitoring to all, to see if or when their tumours might return.

He was part of the radiation group, undergoing 33 radiation treatments. Working full-time as a material handler at the Home Hardware Distribution Centre, Dave’s main challenge was finding time to drive the hour to and from Hamilton for treatments. He would work overtime to make up for time lost, while attending treatments two to three times a week.

When it comes to physical side effects, Dave says dealing with word loss is the most frustrating and alopecia (hair loss) from the radiation is the most noticeable.

Looking ahead

Dave FleischerThree-and-a-half years later, at 55 years old, Dave is, thankfully, tumour free. Though he’s adjusted to life post-tumour, his concerns lie with those who have lost their battles and those who are still fighting. It’s why he’s made an effort to fundraise and participate in Brain Tumour Walks, taking home 2023’s Individual Cup of Hope for raising an astounding $30,000.

“I never put it out there to be the top fundraiser, but I’m pretty happy and proud that we were able to contribute what we did.”

Today, Dave continues to support those going through a similar experience as he did, while getting back to the activities he loves—namely, skiing, fly fishing and biking—with the people (and furry friend) he loves.

He’s Dad to 29-year-old Davis and 24-year-old Ed, grandfather to Vivian, partner to Marie-Helen, and dog dad to a “Woodle” named Jerry, who he got soon after his surgery.

“He was the best thing for me in my recovery,” says Dave, who mentions that his plans going forward involve taking his dog for a walk—or many.

He also plans to travel, visiting Ireland and the Rocky Mountains, as well as visiting his dad in Florida.

Dave, a music buff, reflects on his favourite song by Grateful Dead, when he thinks of the challenges he’s faced and where he’s at now.

These are the lines that resonate with him:

I know the rent is in arrears
The dog has not been fed in years
It’s even worse than it appears
But it’s alright

“It’s one of those uplifting songs that reminds you, no matter how bad things are, they’re going to get better,” says Dave. “They will always get better.”