|Jairo Vanegas, Everett, Washington|
Jairo Vanegas was living the great American dream—wonderful wife, great job, lots of Northwest outdoor fun—when he was stopped in his tracks by a GBM, or glioblastoma multiforme. A brain tumor. A fast-growing brain tumor... One with fingers that likes to grab the brain as if it were a basketball.
“It started with a light headache in the back of my head that just wouldn’t go away,” Jairo recalls. “It grew into a migraine, so I went to the doctor and got medication, but that didn’t work.”
Jairo had this migraine headache for two weeks before getting a CT scan. His doctor referred him to a neurologist who immediately started prepping Jairo for surgery. “But I didn’t even know what I had yet! The doctor thought I knew what I was facing already, and so my wife and I were sitting there and he tells us that I have this brain tumor. We were in shock.”
Jairo had surgery on October 5, 2005 and the procedure was a complete success. To the best of his surgeon’s knowledge, Jairo’s tumor was completely removed.
As with most cancer surgeries, some other form of therapy usually follows to make sure there are no stray cancer cells living in the body. Jairo decided to go home to Salt Lake City for two months while he completed his treatment of chemotherapy and radiation. It was during his time at LDS Hospital in Salt Lake City that his oncologist referred him to University of Washington Medical Center for a second opinion about his therapy. “They told me it was the best place to go for brain cancers—that the doctors there are on the forefront of the newest treatments.”
Jairo has been seeing Dr. Alex Spence and Jennifer Wulff, ARNP, his medical neuro-oncologists, at UW Medical Center ever since.
“Because of his good starting health and physical fitness, Jairo has weathered excellently the surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy,” says Dr. Spence. “The surgery removed most of the visible tumor and left him with no neurological deficits at all. He continues on chemotherapy and tolerates it excellently. He contributes to his own treatment by taking good care of himself.”
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After completing treatment, Jairo felt a sense of urgency to do more, be more active.
“I used to just mountain bike and ride road bikes, but now I’m doing triathlons, rock climbing, and soccer. I’m doing better at work now, too,” he says, who also became a father in October 2007.
“There have been a lot of changes, and I’m excited,” he says. “I’m taking trips I’ve always wanted to do and any postponed goals I had are no longer postponed. Even my relationships with my family are better.”
Jairo and his wife have traveled a lot since his brain tumor treatment In the summer of 2007, he attempted to summit Mt. Rainier twice—a goal he’s had for a long time, but due to weather conditions he was not able to summit. He is planning on summiting in 2008.
At 29 years old, Jairo says he had no idea what his tumor was. He was in shock and felt lost and concerned for his wife, Melanie. He didn’t know for sure if he would survive it and still does not know if the tumor will come back. But he keeps a very positive attitude.
“The cancer diagnosis and treatments have been difficult, yet they have allowed me to make so many positive changes in my life. While I don't know what the future has in store for me and my family, I am excited about life. I owe many thanks to the health-care professionals who have and continue to treat this disease.”