On December 4, 2016, I woke up with a headache. Okay, not ideal, but also not completely abnormal.
When blurry vision developed and the headache continued, my doctor ordered a CT scan. They found a mass on my brain and sent me by ambulance to the closest VA hospital (I’m a retired veteran) with MRI capabilities near my home in Horseheads, NY.
On December 19, another set of doctors biopsied the mass. On December 30, we found out it was glioblastoma. I was told the tumor was inoperable and I had two years to live if I received chemotherapy and radiation. Just two years.
For my wife and I to hear this news, especially during the holidays — as you can imagine, it was devastating.
Upon hearing my prognosis, my son urged me to go to Roswell Park in Buffalo. He had heard some commercials that said to spend just one day with them.
Well, that “just one day” changed my life.
After making the journey to Buffalo in early January, I had an appointment with Robert Fenstermaker, MD, Chair of Roswell Park's Department of Neurosurgery. He said, “Clyde, what are you doing five days from now?”
“Well, all I do here is operate on brain tumors. I am confident I can operate on your tumor.”
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And sure enough, five days later he removed every bit of that cancerous “inoperable” brain tumor. I went from two years to live (which I found out would have been closer to eight months without surgery) to having a whole new renewal on life.
After my brain tumor surgery, I had radiation and am currently on a pill form of chemotherapy. In August, Dr. Fenstermaker still did not see any signs of cancer on my scans. I continue to fight for my life, but learning how to fight and persevere are lessons I learned long ago. After serving 18 years in the Coast Guard and four years in the Navy before retiring in 1997, it was hard to face life after retirement. But back then, I persevered and fought to build a career as a machinist. Now I will fight and persevere to live my life and one day see my grandchildren get married.
Since all this began, I’ve gotten closer to God. I thank God for Dr. Robert Fenstermaker and his team and for Roswell Park. While I’m not eligible for the clinical trial of SurVaxM, I am hopeful that one day the FDA will approve it and I can receive the vaccine.
To anyone who just found out they have cancer — please don’t give up. Look for hope. Cancer treatments advance so much every single day and hope can be found in so many places. I constantly share Roswell Park’s information on my Facebook. Take it from me — a second opinion can save your life.
I’m so fortunate to be alive and to have an amazing wife and family who I love more than anything.
Editor’s Note: Cancer patient outcomes and experiences may vary, even for those with the same type of cancer. An individual patient’s story should not be used as a prediction of how another patient will respond to treatment. Roswell Park is transparent about the survival rates of our patients as compared to national standards, and provides this information, when available, within the cancer type sections of this website.