Cheryl Broyles's Inspirational GBM Brain Tumor Survivor Story
In June 2000 I was diagnosed with brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, and my life changed. I was 33 years old. My husband Matt and I had been married 10 years and our two boys were only 1 and 3 years old. It started with me having bad pain in the left side of my head. I couldn’t bend over to tie my shoe without it feeling like my head would explode. An MRI showed that my brain was hemorrhaging in my left temporal lobe and needed surgery ASAP to stop it. During surgery they found a cluster of veins and arteries leaking blood (called an Arterial Venal Malformation – AVM) and hidden within it was an acorn sized brain tumor – diagnosed as a Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM).
I was told I had less than a year to live. At that time, chemo and radiation possibly added only three months of life. The chemo at that time sounded like it did more damage than good, so I decided not to take it (Temodar was not available at that time). I went ahead with 6 weeks of radiation, but chose to hold off on the chemo.
I was determined to do everything I could to boost my own immune system! My good cells outnumbered the bad cancer cells! I started eating organic foods, eating lots of veggies and fruits, no junk foods or sugars. I started exercising 5 days a week 40 minutes, sleeping 8 hours each night, simplifying life and reducing stress. I started taking many herbal supplements and vitamins. And most of all, I gave everything over to God.
Life was wonderful and I enjoyed each second. In 2004 I wanted to celebrate surviving the GBM for 4 years and decided to climb Mt. Shasta, a 14,167 foot elevation mountain in northern California. I made it to the peak! Then two weeks later my MRI showed the GBM was back, in the same location as before. This time I went into “awake” surgery, so they could map out my brain, avoiding damage to my language. They were able to remove the whole tumor, the size of a grape. Then I went onto the Temodar chemo, the 5/23 schedule, dose of 330mg. I stayed on it for about 1.5 years; then went off because my blood counts were getting lower and I wanted a break.
At that point my two boys were 5 and 8 years old, and I was happy to be alive. I looked and felt healthy and no one would guess I had been through 2 brain surgeries, radiation and chemo. Our family had so much fun camping, backpacking, mountain bike riding, and enjoying the outdoors!
Then in 2007, the GBM came back again, in the same location. I went back into surgery while awake. They were able to remove the pea sized tumor and a buffer around it the size of a golf ball, trying to get any hidden cancer cells. I came out of surgery #3 wonderful. I went back on Temodar chemo for 2 years, then the GBM came back a 3rd time. I was feeling good, so never would have guessed it returned.
March 2009 I had brain surgery #4. It was only the size of approx. 4mm. All seen tumor was removed. I recovered from surgery so fast, like I was a brain surgery pro! I was out camping with my family for spring break, only two weeks after surgery.
In March 2013 I had my fourth recurrence of the GBM. Again, it was tiny and on the perimeter of the tumor cavity. I went into surgery #5 and all seen tumor was removed. Again, I recovered quickly.
In May 2014 I had my fifth recurrence of the GBM. There were two tiny tumors, 4mm and 7mm in size, on the edge of the tumor cavity. I went through surgery #6 with Dr. Berger at UCSF. All seen tumor was removed. I recovered fast and was out having fun in life quickly. No one would guess I've been through SIX brain surgeries!!!
In August 2015 I had my sixth recurrence of the GBM. It was a tiny tumor located on the upper edge of my tumor cavity. It was considered inoperable, so I had Gamma Knife Radiation with Dr. McDermott at UCSF. Within 4 months, the MRI showed the tumor shrunk down to nothing seen!
As I'm updating this "story" now in Oct 2016, it's been 16 years since my first surgery when I was diagnosed with the GBM. Currently my MRIs are looking nice and clear, and I am enjoying seeing my two boys grow! My older son (20 yrs old) is now off in college, and my younger son a senior in high school. Amazing It's been a blessed seeing them grow over the 16 years from only 1 and 3 years old.
The bottom line - don’t give up hope. You are not a number in the statistics! Don’t listen to the doctors if they tell you to go home and die. Plan to live and enjoy each second you have. Lean on God for strength and peace, He will always be there for you.
My heart goes out to others battling brain tumors. I know when I was first diagnosed it helped me so much to talk with another who had "been there and done that too". So if you want to, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I can't wait to hear YOUR story! I'm here in Oregon cheering you on! Don't give up!
I also wrote a book in hopes to encourage others battling brain tumors to never give up. My book, Life’s Mountains, tells the story of climbing Mount Shasta and battling the Glioblastoma Multiforme – hoping it will inspire others to keep climbing their own life’s mountain! If you look to the top of my web page you will see "My Book - Life's Mountains" , click on it and you can read the first chapter of my book and find a link to where you can buy it!
During the 16 years fighting the GBM, I also made some videos to encourage others. If you look above and click on "Videos & Links" you will find all my videos that you can watch most on "YouTube". Hope it uplifts your spirits during this hard time.