"Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes"

Life has an interesting way of making you stop, listen and learn.  It's unique for all of us, and it's been said, 'when we are ready to learn, the teacher appears'.  This particular 'teacher' for my brother Michael has come in the form of a rare, reoccurring brain tumor.  'Classes' began on October 30th, 2011 when Michael experienced a seizure while driving.  Within a week he was diagnosed with an extremely rare brain tumor, an extraventricular neurocytoma.  But not only was it rare, it grew in an area of the brain that was unusual as well.  It chose to make its nest near his motor cortex region (movement of the right side of the body) and his speech center.  Brain surgery was his option at that time, as there weren't any solid chemotherapy/radiation options for the tumor.  Days before his 26th birthday, he courageously faced brain surgery and recovered like a rockstar.  The game plan was to have routine MRI's to watch for regrowth.  He patiently waited 15 months to get his driver's license back which in turn gave him his independence and ability to work again.  During this quieter 'classroom' time, he learned a lot about himself, others, and life.  Through a natural process, he also became a teacher.  His positive attitude and ability to remain happy and embrace every moment, had a huge impact on myself and others.  I paid attention, watched him, and listened to every word he spoke.  I really got his message, "life is short" and he gave me my life back.

As it's often said, Michael was 'back to reality' and returned to the life he once had.  What I loved was Michael's response to the cliche 'back to reality'.  He would smile and say, "was that not real, what just happened to me?"  So true Michael.  That's about as real as it gets!

Within only 9 months of really getting back into his groove, and returning to work for Cal-Frac, his July 2013 MRI showed that his tumor had grown back.  We were back in the neurosurgeon's office in August hearing the words "the tumor has grown back and you will be dealing this for the rest of your life".  The only option was continual high risk brain surgeries....until what?  It didn't take long to realize how this would go.  Not only did they want to operate, but this time they would do it while he was awake, so they could map the brain and do their best to avoid leaving him with a "deficit".  This type of news needs some time to digest, and that's exactly what we were given.  Instead of rushing him in for surgery like the first time, his date was chosen for the beginning of October.  It seemed odd at the time, but looking back, it was precisely correct timing.  It gave us time to breathe and think and look at all options.  Was this really his only option?  To keep cutting out a tumor that would keep growing back?  Let me tell you, when there is a will, there will be a way, and everything you need will be given to you.  You just have to remain open minded, and walk bravely through the doors as they open.

We began to ask the questions "why did this tumor grow" and "how can we help Michael's body heal, and give it the best chance possible to beat this tumor?"  Through our digging and research we decided to invest our money, time and energy into a 15 day healing program at "The Living Foods Institute" in Atlanta, Georgia.  It was a challenge, mentally, physically and emotionally to detoxify the body and retrain it, but the payoff was worth the effort!  We learned so much about the body, and its amazing ability to heal, given the right environment.  The program gave him the "jump start" and Michael committed to sticking to the protocol and he's worked hard, every single day, to get to where he is today!  Healing a brain tumor is a full time job that requires full time support, in all areas!  I give him so much credit for what he has done.  He truly is the most amazing person I have ever known and I have so much respect for him.

The neurosurgeon reluctanly agreed to postpone his surgery and we anxiously awaited his first MRI results post-Atlanta.  In December, it was music to our ears to hear his surgeon say the words "I am happily surprised to say the tumor is stable and has not grown over the past few months.  Not sure how to explain this as it's not see very often.  Keep doing what you are doing, and we'll continue to follow you closely with MRI's".  WOW!!  Did we ever leave there feeling on top of the world!!!  It was a moment of paradise, one that will never be forgotten.  Unfortunately, within days of that high, the pendulum swung hard, in the opposite direction.  Michael was stricken with seizures, they had come back fast and hard out of nowhere.  This turned out to be MIchael's hell on earth, as they were relentless. It was the hardest thing to watch.  It left him with severe anxiety and panic attacks and he was back to a dark place.  He couldn't work, drive, or be left alone.  Life was being squeezed out of him and his confidence was smashed.  It brought him back to the reality of what he was dealing with. A tumor in the brain.  He had been feeling the best he had ever felt, after changing his lifestyle, and maybe the seizures needed to happen to remind him to stay on this path and not quit right before the miracle is about to happen.  What we are learning is when a person starts to "feel healthy" that's when we tend to become more complacent about taking care of our health.  This was the lesson.  We needed more motivation to 'ramp it up', and that's exactly what we did.  After spending a few days in the hospital in January, having more tests and consulting with different specialists, we left without a concrete reason as to why these seizures were suddenly active again.  The tumor had not progressed, the brain just decided to be a bit more reactive.  The brain was really just saying "pay attention" and "keep going" so that's exactly what we did.  We decided to add on high dose IV Vitamin C therapy for the potential benefits it can have on tumors and seizures.

This basically brings us to where we are at today.  Michael is now into his second month of being seizure free and starting to get his comfort level back.  He has another follow up in May and then we go from there.  We really do live day by day, week by week and maybe month by month if we dare try to picture the future!  It's all about finding balance and being cautiously optimistic while having a solid plan of action to achieve the results we want.  Michael is now at the point where he knows what he needs to continue doing, but the financial reality is taking its toll.  The IV Vitamin C therapy alone is $175 per treatment and ideally he needs to be getting 3 treatments per week, for 4 to 6 months.  This is on top of the other expenses he incurs, through supplementation, his specific dietary needs, and therapies.  He has obviously been unable to work, and is currently on short term disability.  He's at the point where he is starting to wonder what he can cut back on or eliminate because of the financial costs.  In my opinion, he is worth every ounce of effort and energy that it takes, to get him what he needs.  I will never quit on him and will always support whatever decision he makes.  This is his journey.  However, I am passionate about supporting his life NOW, while we still have time on our side to give him his health back so he can live a long and healthy life.  He is worthy of this and I am so grateful for everything he has given me.  It's the least I can do, to ask for your support on his behalf.  I don't want him to be forced to short change himself, moments before the miracle is about to happen.  Please consider supporting my brother MIchael, however you can! XOXO
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Paula Stadnyk 
Okotoks, AB
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