My Journey
Living with a Brain Tumor

My son Cameron, in high school football game, October 2000

Chapter 14

by Sandra Beardsley

The following is an article I wrote for an upcoming issue of The Brain Tumor Society's newsletter.

Survivor Story for TBTS
By Sandy Beardsley

I have always admired athletes and coaches. Their strength, determination and confidence is inspiring. My father was a great athlete and a Hall of Fame college wrestling coach. My son is also an athlete. I have always respected his coaches, who taught much more than the skills of a sport. Coaches are famous for their motivational phrases and though they may be cliches, they have some truth…

When the Going Gets Tough the Tough Get Going…
On June 8, 1999 I collapsed from a seizure and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. It was first thought that I had a stroke and a brain tumor diagnosis wasn't confirmed for almost two months. A stereotactic needle biopsy showed that I had a grade two Astrocytoma on the right side of the occipital area. I was 38 years old.

The confirmation was in some ways a relief as I had been experiencing many symptoms for the past three years and had seen many healthcare professionals. I had been misdiagnosed as having migraines due to many of my symptoms. Once I knew the real cause I got going! My husband and I did lots of research and asked lots of questions.

For my biopsy I had to travel to a large city. I insisted that my high school age son stay home. That evening was to be the first home football game he would be playing in. When I woke from surgery I pinned his football button to my pillow. Later we talked and he told me he had tied the school record for getting 3 interceptions in a game.

His football team became very important to my healing and recovery. I had radiation treatments for six weeks and focused on being well enough to attend his weekend games. His team went undefeated that season and my son made the All State team. The support I received from the coaches and athletes helped me to be tough just like them.

Winning the battle with cancer is not measured by survival time. It is about having hope. Cancer weakens the body but with strength of spirit and mind it cannot win. Mental strength is a process. It is like an athlete in training, believing they will win. Through practice, this strength increases. Once the radiation was complete I had to change my strategy. Now was the time for patience and learning to believe in the unknown. I continue to work on mental strength and believing in myself. Surgery to remove my tumor was considered too risky because of its location. I began to transition into a new life with unknowns.

My "team" became my family, friends, coworkers, and students. I am an elementary teacher and the students were amazing. The sixth grade class collected over 1,000 hats for cancer patients and sent them to hospitals nationwide. They became my cheerleaders. I would have to give the MVP (Most Valuable Player) Award to my husband for his own strength on this journey.

I am not the first person in my family to have a brain tumor. Twenty-five years ago my mother had a catscan and a mass was discovered. Surgery was performed and an arterio venous malformation was found. This was not cancerous. Nine years ago my father had surgery to remove a Meningioma tumor in his frontal lobe. The neurosurgeon who performed my mother's surgery also assisted on my father's surgery. (By the way, brain tumors are rarely hereditary and this was not the case in our family)

Both my parents showed great mental strength during these experiences and are alive and healthy today.

No Pain No Gain…
What have I gained from this often painful experience? I have gained a deeper bond with loved ones. I have learned what is really important, how to find my inner strength, and how to trust. I have learned to feel and experience all my emotions and to believe in myself. I am still learning skills and practicing just like any athlete. I continue to practice the true art of patience and living in the now. Thanks to the radiation my tumor has not grown and I am in good health. I take anti-seizure medicine, am able to still teach part time and I have an MRI every six months. I continue to enjoy sports and am now a big fan of the University of Hawaii as my son is on the football team - Go Warriors! I have written about my experience and have a website titled "LIVING with a Brain Tumor." The site is

The story I tell is my own journey. I know there are many brave people who are dealing with much more pain. I am inspired by them, just as I was by Lance Armstrong. Because of his athleticism he had the skills he needed to be a winner in his fight with cancer. Positive attitude, mental strength, determination and hope are all that any of us need to be champions.

Sandy Beardsley

The Brain Tumor Society website:


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