On October 27th, 1997, Leslie Joyce Walters passed away from a brain tumour at the age of 39 years old. She was a devoted wife, loving daughter, creative hairstylist, and my mother. At the age of ten, it was hard for me to comprehend that my hero, in all sense of the word, would never be present again in the physical form.
It was even harder for me to grasp that she had expired as I held her warm hand and watched the respirator raise her chest to breathe. Although she still perceived very much alive, her brain functions had ceased and she was gone.
It all began several months earlier. Innately prone to migraines, when she began to experience them with more severity and consistency, Leslie and the doctors alike both thought nothing of it. With no prior history of brain tumours in the family, and an otherwise very healthy woman, the initial diagnosis and prescription of pain-relieving meds seemed adequate at the time. It was not until she would spend days on end in bed and commence seeing double that we knew there must be more to it.
After passing out at the clinic during a routine follow-up, she was rushed to emergency. At the hospital, the team of doctors finally initiated a series of tests which determined that she had a benign brain tumour that had metastasized to the size of an orange. By the time the surgery had been scheduled to have it removed on the upcoming Monday, it was too late. Only four days prior, she suffered a cardiac arrest in her sleep from the pressure the tumour created on her spinal cord and she slipped away in the night.
While Leslie’s situation may have not been preventable, or curable, by identifying the symptoms early and being persistent when something does not seem to add up could lead to a better end result. By being aware of your family history of cancer and tumours, and by doing research from a reputable source such as the National Brain Tumour Society, you are already one step of the curve.
If you are experiencing seizures, loss of movement or feeling in limbs, blurred, double or loss of vision, changes in behaviour, headaches, memory loss or more, it is important to ask questions to uncover answers. It is better to find out that you may have a terrible bought of migraines, then to not find out that you may have a tumour.
Although 16 years have nearly passed and my mother cannot come back to life, her story and legacy continue to inspire change and awareness. Every year, a group of her friends and family raise funds for the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada in hopes of one day finding a cure and making sure that stories just like hers keep those who have a fighting chance the opportunity at life.