This journey started in late July, when after complaining of minor headaches for several weeks after working in Tanzania for nearly two years. The headaches, although no more severe than one might get during a cold, were rare to me and were growing worse. I was fortunate enough to be able to schedule MRI and CT scans within 2 hours at the Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam. It was no small feat since these were the only machines in the entire country!
After reviewing the results, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, which ended up being the size of a golf ball located in the right frontal lobe of my brain. I was medically evacuated back to the USA immediately and within in a couple of days of my arrival in Boston, was scheduled for surgery. The surgery, lasting 7 hours, was successful, and the surgeon was able to remove all visible parts of the tumour from my brain.
Looking back now, I thought at the time that I would only be in Boston for a month at the most, but an initial diagnosis of PNET (Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumor) a rare brain cancer indicated that this would be a long journey.
The treatment for PNET was proton radiation followed by a course of chemotherapy. I underwent the proton radiation at Mass General Hospital which is, at that time, one of only 4 locations in the USA that provides the treatment. The treatment was very difficult to endure but I displayed minimal side effects and a lumbar puncture indicted that the treatment was successful.
During the radiation though, I sought a second opinion on the diagnosis. PNET, a rare cancer seen usually in 7 year olds, and located commonly on the back of the brain (not where mine was found) didn't seem right to me. The second pathology from Dana Farber indicated that that MGH's diagnosis was wrong and a third opinion from Sloan-Kettering confirmed it. Instead, I have a rare presentation (there is no literature on my situation thus far) of Ewing's Sarcoma. The doctors at MGH reported that they have never before seen a case of Ewing's Sarcoma in the front right lobe of the brain and for that reason they had neglected to test it fully, assuming that it could not be Ewing's.
The diagnosis of Ewings changed the chemotherapy regiment. I underwent a 11-month regime of five different drugs, given in three week intervals, alternating in-patient for five days and out-patient for two days.
On Oct 1, 2008, I finally completed my treatment with minimal size effects. Despite the continuous hardships after the completion of the treatment and my constant fear of a recurrence of the cancer, I had decided to follow my passion to work in the field of International Health/Development. After the treatment, I decided to work with Doctors Without Borders in Swaziland for a year. I recently came back to the US.