Meredith M - Diagnosed in 2005 with GBM IV
My Personal Road to Hell and Back
By Meredith C. Moore-Hansen
At 32, I have had a very blessed personal and professional life, due to luck and a bit of hard work, as well. A New York Life agent since 1998, I own Moore & Associates Wealth Management, a financial planning practice in a suburb of Atlanta, GA. I have consistently qualified for Million Dollar Round Table and many industry awards.
I am a wife, mother, a triathlete, AND a brain Cancer survivor.
Lucky to Live One Year.
On June 1, 2005, just five weeks after the birth of my first child, Erik, I was diagnosed with glioblastoma. This is the most Malignant and deadly type of brain Tumor and was the size of a womanâ€™s fist. Statistics tell me that 13.3% of people survive five years. Glioblastoma patients are always told that â€œitâ€™s not a matter of if, itâ€™s a matter of whenâ€ the tumor comes back.
I quickly underwent a Craniotomy â€” brain surgery â€” to remove the deadly tumor. The problem with brain surgery is that the doctors donâ€™t know whatâ€™s in there, until they saw into your head and take a look. After discovering that removing the tumor could cause loss of mobility on my left side, the surgeons removed only 50% of the tumor. I was told I would be lucky to live one year. I kept telling the doctors that â€œThey couldnâ€™t be right. I just had my first child.â€
Race to Recovery.
My husband and I were not going to give up easily. We hit the road to both Duke University and MD Anderson in Houston, upon receiving the worst possible pathology report. Both brain tumor clinics recommended that I â€œre-doâ€ my craniotomy to finish removing the tumor. Philosophically, I liked Dukeâ€™s more hopeful philosophy on my Prognosis and chose their team of doctors to coordinate all of my treatment strategies. At this point, I went on long-term disability claim to help cover my medical bills, household expenses and to keep my business afloat.
In July 2005, Duke University surgeons operated again to remove the remaining tumor. I was awake for most of the procedure. It was the most surreal experience of my life. As they poked around the right side of my brain, I saw my left hand fly up. The neurosurgeons at Duke maintain until this day, that I was â€œthe most talkative patient they have ever hadâ€. I remember telling the doctor â€” during the surgery â€” that he needed to consider long-term care insurance.â€ Duke was able to successfully remove the remainder of the brain tumor.
Next, Duke offered me a clinical trial which involved a four day stay in the Neuro-Intensive Care Unit after drilling holes into my brain to administer a drug locally to the affected areas. Most brain surgeries remove the tumor, but not all the damaged cells. The new procedure was a way to kill off the remaining damaged cells and hopefully prevent the tumor from coming back. I was very lucky that my health insurance plan paid for the hospital stay and all expenses that Duke didnâ€™t cover for the clinical trial. Frequently, we have no idea if health insurance will pay for an experimental treatment, if one is ever needed.
The surgeries and the experimental drug procedure were a success. The frustrating part of the process was the fact that I have an engineering degree from Georgia Tech, and I couldnâ€™t even make a sandwich after the first craniotomy. It took me three weeks to regain all of my Cognitive functions, but I continued to have completely clean MRIâ€™s. My husband actually filed for claim on my New York Life long-term care policy. Thankfully, I ended up recovering sufficiently and didnâ€™t have to use it.
As if 3 brain surgeries werenâ€™t enough, my family and I had to move to Durham, NC to complete 33 radiation treatments at Dukeâ€™s facility. Having a new son, husband and dog living in a small corporate apartment in a HIGHLY stressful environment is not fun. It was tough trying to be new mom recovering from both a C-section and multiple brain surgeries in a matter of months.
After radiation, we moved back to our home in Atlanta, GA and I began one year of Chemotherapy. I returned to work during this important recovery period, choosing to exercise my mind by continuing to serve my clients. I didnâ€™t have to come back to work because of my disability insurance. But I love what I do. However, without the disability income, I would not have been able to keep my business afloat, along with contributing my portion to the household expenses. It was a life saver. My disability contract also allowed me to go back to work, but still paid me until my income reached the same level prior to going on claim.
Back in the Saddle Again
I also returned to competing. I ran two triathlons in the summer of 2006 and placed in the top 20% of all women in the race. In addition, I won my age group in the swim portion of both the triathlons. In the picture of me running, what you canâ€™t see is the chunk of hair missing from the radiation on the right side of my head. Iâ€™ll never say another word about a bad comb over. Call it karma.
Good Things Happen
When asked how the ordeal has affected my outlook on life and work, I tell people that Iâ€™m a very different person than I was before. If I have a bad day, I donâ€™t let it stress me out as much. But Iâ€™m more intense in other ways. I really push my clients to plan and put things in place now because I know personally that bad things can happen. In fact, in addition to running my financial planning practice, I frequently do motivational public speaking engagements on my story and the benefits of doing all of the proper planning.
On June 1, 2006, I officially outlived my original prognosis. In November 2006, I turned 32-years-old, and have consistently received clean MRIs since the last craniotomy in July 2005.