Brain Tumour Awareness and Balance – Mine was Perfect

I was a figure skater with perfect balance.

However, a symptom of a brain tumour is unsteadiness.

It’s Brain Tumour Awareness Week. Where we attempt to erase the stigma, educate the public, and so forth.

The Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada wants the public to be aware of the above eight signs.

But my symptoms?

I had a headache at school. It felt as though someone was stabbing my skull with a screwdriver. Everything turned orange. Heat rushed to my face and I had to rest my head on the table. The pain lasted for about 10 seconds,

That was the afternoon of September 9, 1991.

I went to bed at 10 p.m., and I woke up in the Arborg Hospital, crying just after 6 a.m.

I learned that around 2 a.m. on September 10, 1991, I had a tonic-clonic seizure, and I’d entered status epilepticus. This led to the diagnosis of my first brain tumour.

Several brain tumour survivors have said their symptoms were different than the BTFC’s list. Strange smells, a crooked smile, or chronic sinus issues. Or no symptoms until another specialist would discover the tumour by chance.

Every June, Winnipeg, Manitoba holds the Brain Tumour Walk – formerly the Spring Sprint. When a survivor checks in, they’re asked questions about their brain tumour: grade, type, location, and signs. Not zodiac, I mean your symptoms.

Luckily, I have an excellent neurologist and epileptologist who walked me through the grade, type, location process.

But, some survivors – and caregivers – question what they missed leading up to the diagnosis. Maybe a person’s balance wasn’t great, but not bad enough for a tumour. Or maybe one side of the body’s weaker than the other.

As a kid, I was often sick. Could this have been an underlying sign? Once my fever was so high, I watched the mercury shoot to the end of the thermometer.

When I was super sick. Not the best time for a photo op. Whenever I’d get sick, it’d be out of the blue.

When I first started to skate, at first I’d only push with one foot. The right side of the brain controls the left side, etc. It’s possible. Or it’s possible I was afraid of falling. Did I have my tumour from birth? Or was it those awful plastic moulded skates?

My tumour was located on the speech and memory area of my brain. I had a speech impediment as a kid. After my first surgery, it was hardly detectable. Imagine seven years of speech therapy eradicated by an eight-hour surgery.

I had a lot of nose bleeds which required hospital visits. A sign? Again, I have no idea. My advice is to be mindful of your body.

Because, I was a 15-year-old, happy, healthy, athletic, honours student.

And that changed overnight.