Brain tumor survivor shares message of hope

Most brides-to-be spend the days before their weddings finalizing last-minute details for the big event. Lauren Christian Dwyer spent hers in a hospital bed, unsure of the future.

Just days before her wedding in September 2011, Dwyer suffered a seizure. She was admitted to the hospital and underwent several days of tests, including a spinal tap, leaving her weak and frightened.

Still, she and fiancé Nathan Dwyer forged ahead with plans for a scaled-down wedding. “We cut our guest list from 300 to 50, and shortened our full-length ceremony to 10 minutes,” Dwyer says. “I was so weak I sat in a chair at the altar.”

The week after the wedding, a diagnosis was made: two brain tumors, called oligoastrocytomas, were found on both sides of Dwyer’s brain. Oligoastrocytomas are a type of brain tumor classified as “gliomas” because they come from glial, or supportive cells of the brain.

Dwyer was referred to Ralph Dacey Jr, MD, chief of neurosurgery at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Over the course of several surgeries in late 2011 and early 2012, Dr. Dacey was able to remove most of the tumor tissue. Dwyer began physical therapy and speech therapy while she healed from the surgery and waited to begin chemotherapy and radiation treatments on what was left of the tumor.

Now, with just two chemotherapy treatments left, Dwyer is making excellent progress. She has an MRI scan every three months to make sure the tumors are not coming back, and will continue this monitoring for years to come.

“You’re not ever free of brain cancer,” Dwyer says. “With this kind of cancer, there is no such thing as remission. There are always some cells left to fight.”

Although the prospect of a lifelong battle against brain tumors may sound grim, Dwyer is optimistic about getting her life back to normal. During Brain Tumor Awareness Month, she wants to spread a message of hope to others whose lives have been impacted by brain tumors. Dwyer participated in Miles for Hope in 2012 and is participating in the Head for the Cure 5k run in June.

Dwyer recently shared her story with April Simpson, a local news anchor and fellow brain cancer survivor. Click here to watch it on FOX 2.

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Category: Neurology & Neurosurgery, Siteman Cancer Center

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Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center is the largest hospital in Missouri and the largest private employer in the St. Louis region. An affiliated teaching hospital of Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has a 1,800 member medical staff with many who are recognized as "Best Doctors in America." They are supported by residents, interns and fellows, in addition to nurses, technicians and other health-care professionals.

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