Oligodendroglioma survivor Mike Givens has been a dedicated fundraiser and philanthropist for many years. But it wasn't until after his second brain tumor diagnosis that he became dedicated to helping other brain tumor patients.
After undergoing brain tumor treatment at MD Anderson, Mike was so impressed with the level of care he received that he decided to get involved and give back.
"I believe it is our responsibility to give back in life. It's the greatest privilege I have," Mike says. "I love to give back because I feel so blessed."
Traveling to MD Anderson for oligodendroglioma surgery and proton therapy treatment
Mike's second brain tumor was found during a routine check-up. The tumor was small, but Mike knew from experience that he had to act quickly. Eight years ago, Mike underwent treatment for a brain tumor on the left side of his head.
This time, Mike's brain tumor treatment began with chemotherapy. After five months, Mike's tumor still hadn't shrunk. His doctors suggested radiation therapy.
"I just wasn't satisfied with this option," Mike says.
He began looking for someone willing to perform brain surgery.
A friend of the Givens family referred Mike to MD Anderson, where he first saw Mark Gilbert, M.D., Neuro-Oncology professor. Next, Nicholas Levine, M.D., assistant professor of Neurosurgery, performed brain surgery to attempt to remove the oligodendroglioma.
Following the surgery, Mike awoke to see Levine standing beside his bed. "I just wanted to let you know we got it all," he told him and promised to show him the CT scan in the morning.
The next morning Levine returned to show Mike the scans, as promised. They were clear. The oligodendroglioma had been removed.
To his surprise, Mike was released from the hospital after just two days. He'd recovered so much faster than after his first brain surgery. This time, he was able to speak right after surgery. Last time, it was days before he was able to talk.
His doctors at MD Anderson had promised that they could perform the surgery with little impediments on his life, and they were right.
But Mike was different this time, too. He was more prepared and more determined.
"It just took more courage than anything," he says.
Not long after his surgery, he started going on power walks to regain his strength. After a while, he was taking seven- and eight-mile walks.
His doctors recommend proton therapy treatments to ensure there were no remnants of the tumor. Mike happily rang the gong on his last day of treatment, Sept. 30, 2013.
Helping other brain tumor patients as a cancer survivor
An experienced fundraiser, Mike now had a new cause. He had become determined to help other brain tumor patients and support research at MD Anderson.
This is how the Pebble Beach Charity Classic Golf Tournament was born.
"I love doing things for other people. I believe in giving back. I believe God has a plan for us. This is just a little way that I can give back to other people that have brain tumors," he says.
The Pebble Beach Charity Classic was held in March 2014, and raised $125,000. Dr. Levine and Dr. Gilbert flew to attend the event and show support for the event that Mike made possible.
"The outpouring of stories and emotions at the event was awe-inspiring," Dr. Levine says. "Mike's commitment will spur the event on for years to come."
Dr. Gilbert was also impressed by Mike's dedication and efforts.
"I'm very moved and energized by people like Mike who take time from their busy lives to raise funds to support our research programs," he says.
Until next year's Pebble Beach Charity Classic, Mike is working on regaining the 50 yards he lost in his golf swing, the only side effect he experienced from his brain tumor treatment. To Mike, 50 yards was a small sacrifice to pay for getting another chance at life.