By Paul Gaulke, Reach Marketing & Communication Committee Member
What do you do when your doctor tells you he might be able to get you three more years to live…if you are lucky?
In March 2012, that’s what happened to me. I was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor, Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) Grade 4, one of the worst possible diagnoses. It’s the same cancer that took the lives Ted Kennedy, John McCain, and thousands of people every year. My treatment included brain surgery for the removal of a golf ball-sized tumor, 32 days of radiation, and more than 18 months of chemotherapy.
But it was not just months of grueling treatment. The tumor left me permanently disabled with neurocognitive disorders that affect my “executive function” area, including the ability to make decisions and judgments; communicate; maintain attention; and process, retain, and recall information.
The good news is that I am still alive seven years after my brain surgery. But, I still struggle with people who don’t understand my fight. People can’t see my deficits since my issues are in my brain, and not my arms or my legs. But they are still real. People have even questioned whether you can call my brain cancer and treatment a Traumatic Brain Injury. What can be more of a brain injury than surgery to remove part of my brain and radiation to kill the cancer in your head?
My fight to help people who share similar challenges is why I want to support groups like Reach for Resources whose mission is to support individuals with disabilities and mental illness to reach their full potential. It’s important to provide individualized services that maximize independence, promote community involvement, and improve physical and mental well-being.