Kate B - Diagnosed in 2004 with a GBM IV

Kate B
Kate and her husband Brian


Kate and Brian Burke have been married for 14 years and live with their 2 children in Santa Rosa California. Their daughter Riley is in 8th grade and their son Colin is in 4th grade. Coming home from a family trip to Disneyland in April of 2004 Kate had a Grand Mal Seizure which began their journey in to the world of brain tumors. After a stay in the hospital with a multitude of testing she was released and put in a wait and see mode. It appeared to look like a possible stroke had happened. 7 weeks later the 3rd MRI showed growth and the UCSF doctors decided it was time for brain surgery. Though she was out of the hospital after 48 hours, she got the worst possible news that it was a grade IV GBM. She began her radiation and Chemotherapy soon after.

She was forced to retire from running her business at the young age of 39. She since has done a lot of speaking and has been involved with the Lance Armstrong Foundation, sits on the board for Kathy’s Camp For Kids (For kids who have parents that have been diagnosed with Cancer) and participated in the filming of “Personal Reflections: Patient Stories of Brain Tumors.” This was produced by NBTF, Schering-Plough, and the Wellness Community. She also has been featured in the Tug McGraw Foundation news page. Her website continues to provide information and hope to those around the world diagnosed with this devastating disease.

This is Kate's story so far...

Stats are only stats.

God is the one who knows our exact time here on earth. I am choosing to follow HIS stats.

April 19, 2004, I had a grand mal seizure while on a family vacation in Southern California. I was a healthy and physically fit 38 year old that doesn’t smoke and rarely drinks so this was definitely a shock. After finding a mass on my left front lobe during a CT scan at a local hospital, they released me to go home to Santa Rosa with the promise to get to a neurologist the next day for further testing. A couple of days later after a series of seizures I landed in our hospital where they did a multitude of tests from CT scans, to MRI’s, MRA’s Spinal Tap, Aids, and TB! I was poked and prodded so much I began to feel like a human pin cushion. Through some blood work they discovered that I had some blood clotting disorders. I am factor 5 Leiden and Protein S deficient. This led them to believe that maybe the mass in my left lobe was possibly swelling from a stroke. In addition to this I had a trans esophageal echocardiogram. The results of that awful test (Imagine swallowing what felt like a garden hose!) revealed that I did NOT have a hole in my heart. YEA!!!!.....BUT what then?

Kate BAfter my 3rd MRI was done the day prior to my appointment at UCSF we found out it was NOT an infarction. The radiologist said it was most likely a brain Tumor since strokes don’t grow. We kept our appointment at UCSF though it was with a stroke specialist and they recommended surgery immediately. Exactly 9 weeks after my first seizure I was headed in to brain surgery. The pathology report revealed the worst possible news. I had a Stage 4 Glioblastoma Multiforme or GBM for short. This is the most aggressive and deadly form of brain cancer. Even with brain surgery, 6 ½ weeks of radiation and a year of Chemotherapy most people don’t live past 200 days.

I heard those stats and thought…..NO WAY! I had an incredible marriage and 2 wonderful kids who were in kindergarten and 3rd grade! During that time God revealed to me that my work wasn’t done here on earth yet. I was led to read a passage in Philippians 1:21 where the Apostle Paul talks about ‘To live is Christ and die is gain. However, I will remain in the body and continue on with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith.’ I realized my purpose now was to share what had happened and to be a testimony to both believers and non-believers. I believe God allows things to happen in our lives so that we in turn can comfort those as we have been comforted. I knew I would be 1 of the 2% that would make it to the 5 year mark. I am now labeled a “Long term survivor”.

Since that time I was able to help my chemo maker Schering-Plough and NBTF and the Wellness Community produce a movie entitled “Personal Reflections.” I have done several speaking engagements from a High School classroom, to women’s retreats. I had the privilege to represent California on Capitol Hill with the Lance Armstrong Foundation for Livestrong Day where we advocated for cancer Research. I spoke at an ASCO conference and continue to do survivor conferences. I have shared my story with the TODAY show and CNN. I sat as a board member and helped develop Kathy’s Camp for Kids which is an organization that was started for kid’s that have a parent diagnosed with cancer. I continue to work with National Brain Tumor Society here in San Francisco to raise funds and awareness.

I used to manage a business with 50 employees. Now after retiring I am in the cancer fighting business. I have made it my goal to not stop until we can find a cure. I have a site that chronicles my journey since July 2004. www.caringbridge.org/ca/kate . It is a privilege to be here and to be used by God to help those that have received the same “death sentence” that I did and to prove that it doesn’t have to be that way. It can be beaten with a sense of humor and a belief that God is in control. When you look you can find many blessings even in the most dire of circumstances. I am living proof and I wouldn’t trade my journey for anything.

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