Our brain tumor journey began in 2006, when my husband Dave first began experiencing double vision. We didn't know it at the time, but we later discovered it was a symptom of hemangiopericytoma, a rare tumor that involves the blood vessels. Dave's was located in his brain.
The next eight years were the greatest challenge Dave and I have ever faced, but he never let the brain tumor stop him. He achieved many accomplishments during his brain tumor treatment: celebrating the birth of our son, graduating from architecture school and founding a benefit race.
Dave lost his battle on June 30, 2014, but with all the bravery and love that he showed each step of the way, to me, in a way, he won.
Dave's brave hemangiopericytoma treatment
After his hemangiopericytoma diagnosis, Dave underwent brain surgery and radiation in 2007, but the tumor returned in 2010. He underwent gamma knife radiosurgery that summer and then continued his hemangiopericytoma treatment with more radiation and chemotherapy. With few options left, Dave enrolled in a clinical trial. He underwent a laser ablation, a procedure that had never been done on this type of tumor before.
Through it all, Dave showed limitless bravery. He was never scared. After each new step, he simply asked, "What's next?"
His care team was right alongside him. Just like Dave, they never gave up, and MD Anderson quickly became our second home. Our friends and family were back in New Orleans, but we found even more support here in Houston.
Dave brought the same "what's next" attitude to our personal life. Despite all Dave's medical challenges, he earned his architectural degree in 2010. Then, shortly after his gamma knife radiosurgery, we were miraculously blessed to welcome a baby boy, Preston in spring 2011. Dave continued to work at the construction company he and his father co-owned as much as possible. Even when the tumor caused Dave to lose his eyesight, he kept working.
Celebrating Dave's legacy
Dave never knew a stranger. Give him 10 minutes, and he could become friends with anybody. The news about his hemangiopericytoma diagnosis spread quickly, and we were fortunate that our friends started a foundation to help us pay for medical expenses. Dave quickly transformed that into a group to help raise funds for brain tumor research.
In May 2010, we hosted a 5K race to raise money and bring the community together. Dave, despite having lost his vision, insisted on running every step of the race. His mom and his cousin each held his hands and led him each step. He was the last one to finish, but he refused to give up until he crossed the finish line.
Our son Preston is now 4 years old. I know he won't have many memories of his dad, so it's up to me to help him. Most of all, I want him to know what a good person his dad was. How he was generous, brave and strong.
Helping Preston get to know his dad is no small task, but I know I'm not alone in this. Throughout our journey, our friends and family created an amazing support network that has helped me as a caregiver just as much as they helped Dave as a patient. As caregivers, we have to realize that we can't all be superwoman or superman like we want to be. We have to accept help sometimes, and I'm so glad I did.
Now, I'll be accepting help as I tell Preston all about Dave. I'm glad it's not just up to me to do the job. I'm fortunate there's a whole community out there to celebrate Dave's legacy.