What a treat is has been to have found this Godly survivor on the Internet! Cheryl is a Jeremiah 29:11 woman with God's peace abounding! She is pictured here with her boys Grant & Clint.
After reading her story, please feel free to email her by clicking here to ask her any questions or to pass along encouragment!
See Cheryl's Updates below
I remember the exact moment it all started. It was actually kind of comical. It was June 2000. I was out back killing 35 chickens we had raised. It was part of our yearly meat supply (out here in Oregon, we often kill our own meat). I got the worst headache I have ever had. It felt like I was suddenly hit in the head with an ax. Interesting enough, at the time I was currently using an ax to "do the chickens in". I figured it was just the chickens getting back at me somehow.
The headache did not go away, and kept getting worse. A few days later I went to the emergency room. I am the type of person that never has headaches, so I knew something was up. I described it to the doctor, and he told me to go home, it was just a migraine. I asked for a CAT scan and he said no. I told him I was leaving on vacation in a few days, across the country to NH and that I was worried about traveling. The doctor said not to worry, it was nothing, go home.
Well I left for vacation with my husband Matt and two little boys, Clint 1 and Grant 3 years old. When I got to NH it only got worse and I went to the emergency room again. They took a CAT scan right away and found that my brain was hemorrhaging and there was a pocket of blood slowly building up. The docs thought it was an AVM (arterial ventricular malformation). I flew back to Portland Oregon to have surgery at Oregon Health Sciences University. Only after surgery did I find out that a cancerous brain tumor had been removed. The diagnosis was Anaplastic Oligodendroglioma. It was about the size of an acorn and located on the surface of my left temporal lobe. The surgeon was able to remove all of it that he could see. I went home to recuperate and decide what treatment to take. The second I got home I got on the Internet and read everything I could find on cancerous brain tumors. I was stricken by the seriousness of it, but felt I was blessed, because it could have been worse. It could have been a GBM (glioblastoma multiform). I felt completely overwhelmed with the options available with the numerous clinical trials. I did not want to do just the "standard treatment". It did not seem wise for me to jump into something, I wanted to take my time and figure things out. I decided to head down to UCSF (University California San Francisco) for a second opinion. They decided to reevaluate the slides of the tumor to see if they agreed with the diagnosis.
I was still in emotional shock. Things kept getting worse. First an AVM, then a cancerous brain tumor. I felt like God was testing my faithfulness to Him. I had accepted Jesus Christ as my savior long ago, and was confident in Godís grace, through Christís blood. Because I trusted God with my life, I got cocky and a little mad and prayed, "Bring it on God!!! I will never turn from you no matter what happens!" I felt confident that no mater what happened to me, I would hold firm in my beliefs that God was good and wanted what was best for me. Well, shortly after my prayer I learned to not challenge God to "bring it on", because He did!
I can still remember the day UCSF called with their diagnosis over the phone. It was not an oligodendrogleoma, but a GBM (they had even gotten a third opinion). I knew enough about brain tumors by then that I knew GBMs were significantly worse than oligos. I hung up the phone and had a panic attack. By nature I am a control freak, and I had never felt so out of control in my life. I dropped on my knees, before my Lord, and for the first time completely gave it over to Him. I knew I could not hold it together without Godís strength. When I completely gave my life over to God, He gave me complete peace. I completely trusted God with my life, whether that meant death by GBM, or a long life on earth. Over time my anxiety about the future turned to excitement. I knew God had a plan for me, and that it was the best plan for me. I was excited to see what God had in store for me.
The elders from my church came to my house and prayed for me. Family, friends and people I did not even know were praying for me all over the USA. I felt engulfed in love, unlike ever before. At that time I realized that life could be so amazing, if everyone always showed that much love to each other. Not just when someone was diagnosed as terminal. From then on I decided to show people my love more freely and not hold back.
I decided to go to UCSF to be part of a clinical trial called the HBOC trial, where they injected me with cow hemoglobin before radiation, and then gave me oxygen during the radiation. This was supposed to enhance the effects of radiation on any remaining cancer cells. After only two weeks, I had a serious allergic reaction to the cow hemoglobin. I was taken off the trial and headed back home to Medford Oregon to finish my radiation there.
The next question was, would I take chemo? The doctors did some genetic tests to see if any remaining cancer cells would be "sensitive" to chemo (dealing with chromosome 1 and 19). Tests came back that I was not the "type" to respond well to chemo. After much deliberation, I decided to not take chemo. I decided it was not worth it. I wanted to give my own immune system a shot at it. By nature I am a fighter, and could not believe that a few little cancer cells could beat my many thousands of healthy cells. It was a simple matter, the good outnumbered the bad.
I did as much research as I could. I read everything I could get my hands on. Four books I highly recommend that have made a big difference for me are: the Bible; Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil; Love, Medicine & Miracles by Bernie S. Siegel; and Surviving "terminal" Cancer by Ben Williams (another brain tumor survivor).
Compiling everything I had read in my mind, I decided to make some major changes in my life. I thought of Einsteinís famous quote that goes something like: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So, if my previous lifestyle was not "healthy", I was determined not to repeat it (and expect to be healthy). I did a 180-degree turn, and decided to live my life differently. As a wildlife biologist and outdoorsy type, I felt I had already been living a healthy life. However, after really looking into it, I realized that it was not.
I had been working a high stress job since my boys were born. Every week I dropped them off at day care, and it tore me up inside. A friend told me that Native Americans believe that tumors are "unshed tears". I felt that my brain tumor was my many unshed tears that had built up over three years of being separated from my children while I was at work. I decided to quit my job and stay home full time with my boys. The decision was very freeing and I felt a huge weight removed. With only my husbandís salary, we had to sell our home and move to a lower cost one. It was worth it.
Another huge weight taken from my shoulders was through forgiving. Over the years I had built up anger and resentment over people and situations that had hurt me. This was not healthy for me or my immune system. When I let it all go and forgave others (and then also asked for forgiveness), I felt so light I could fly!
Other major changes I made were: I exercise 5 days a week. I am committed to reading Godís word daily (the Bible). I pray to God daily, and meditate and visualize often. My diet changed to eating many fruits/veggies and whole grains daily. I eat mostly organic foods. I take many supplements (I see an herbalist). And as hard as it might be, I try not to eat sugar. I live "in the moment", which was hard because I am a true planner. I diligently strive to take things out of my life that cause me stress (but because of my new perspective on life, not much causes me stress anymore!). My life now is very simple. I try to see the funny things in life and laugh as much as I can. I try to live life spontaneously, enjoying every moment. I learned that I could choose how I felt every day. I chose to see the GBM as a blessing, as a trial that was molding me into a better person.
Since surgery I have had MRIs every two months (recently now three months). Each MRI has come out clear, no visible tumor. It has now been 2 Ĺ years! Statistics said I would most likely not make it past one year! I have not been on any medications since surgery. So far, I have not had any deficits, other than feeling confused if there is too much noise/activity going on around me, and some problems with memory.
The last 2 Ĺ years have been the best of my life. The GBM has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It has allowed me to see life from a new and wonderful perspective that I cherish. I may not be "cured" (bodily) by the medical community, but I am definitely "healed" (in my soul) by God.
I LOVE LIFE, and have fun every day. I wake up each morning and thank God for what He has given me, even while knowing that at any moment He may choose to allow the GBM to come back. I know that God wants what is best for me. I may live until I am 100, or die by GBM before I hit 40. What ever it is, I am OK with it. Through God I have such a peace about my future, that I can enjoy my life in the "here and now".
I pray that those of you dealing with a brain tumor, either personally or by knowing someone who does, will reach out to God for the peace that only He can give you. As for me, what makes me feel like dancing when I wake up in the morning; what makes me smile when I am frustrated; what makes me feel at peace in the midst of trials - is GOD!
Posted November 4, 2003
Hello Donna and Frank,
It has been over a year since I first wrote my "survivor story" for your web page, so I though I should send you an update. Things are great and my MRIs continue to come back clear. I get MRIs now every 4 months in California at UCSF. Each MRI over the last year has come back clear. The docs even say they can't hardly see any scar tissue anymore. I feel wonderful and continue to love life each and every day! I continue to exercise 5 days a week, reduce as much stress as possible in my life, take supplements, eat lots of veggies and whole grains, eat very little sugar and simple carbos (OK I did break down and have some Halloween candy - I stole it from my son's bag). My two boys are now 4 and 7 years old, and I am determined to be alive to see them off to college! I feel blessed every day by God. I have gotten letters from people who have read my story on the web page. I am touched by their stories and questions and love to help in any way I can. Please feel free to write if you have questions, or just need someone to listen. I hope all of you out there who are dealing with a brain tumor keep the hope, throw away the statistics, and live each day to the fullest!
3 year, 4 month, 3 day survivor of a GBM
Hello Donna and Frank,
I thought I would give you and update to add to your web page. I celebrated my 4 year GBM survivorship this last June 2004.
To celebrate, Matt (my husband) and I climbed to the top of Mount Shasta in Northern California. It was an amazing climb up past 14,000 feet elevation. What a view!
In July 2004 I got bad news. My MRI showed new tumor growth. It was located right on the edge of my last tumor cavity. It was small and easy to get to. So I went in for surgery as soon as I could get it on August 9th, 2004. I had surgery with Dr. Berger at UCSF, where he specializes in surgery of the left temporal lobe, where my tumor was. He did the surgery while I was awake, to make sure he did not do damage to my language center. I was scared at first about having brain surgery while I was awake, but it turned out to be actually interesting.
It is now January of 2005 and I am feeling great. I healed fast, and everyone tells me they could never tell I have been through two brain surgeries. However, I do have some problems with using wrong words when I am talking, or forgetting the words I need. I actually think it is funny and just laugh it off. My two little boys think it is funny too. One night at dinner I kept telling Grant my 8 year old to "eat his booger", what I really meant was for him to eat his burger. He just laughed and laughed.
I am now on Temodar 5 days on, 23 days off at 330mg. I get tired, but not too bad. My two boys keep me very busy. I now have my MRIs every two months again, and hope to go at least another 4 years before ever needing to think about surgery again.
God gives me peace when I lean on Him. Every day is exciting. I know God has a plan for me. Whatever that is, I am ready for the ride on the roller coaster.
4 1/2 year GBM survivor!!!
Posted July 11, 2005
Hello Frank and Donna,
Just wanted to let you guys know that my last MRI looked great!!! No seen tumor. The docs do see more radiation damage, but that is common and expected. I am still on Temodar, but things are going well with it. This last June 27, 2005 was a 5 year GBM survivor celebration for me!!! Life is good. Hope all is going well with you guys too.
[After reading her story, please feel free to email her by clicking here to ask her any questions or to pass along encouragment! ]
(Please note that the following entries were posted at the same time - they basically run from 1/07 to 3/07)
Hello Brain Tumor Friends,
I wanted to write to each of you individually to see how you are doing and respond to recent emails I have gotten from many of you. But things have been so busy, I have not had time. So I hope you know, how much you each mean to me, even though I am doing a letter to all of you at once. It is scary that my list of brain tumor friend keeps getting longer and longer. I hope people find out what causes it and gets a cure soon!
Since Nov. there has been a new little spot on my MRI. They tracked it every month (Nov, Dec, Jan) It has grown slowly. It is only the size of a pea. But my neuro-surgeon and neuro-oncologist at UCSF want to take it out. They are not sure what type of tumor it is. It does not look like a typical GBM again. It might be a Meningioma caused by radiation damage. It have now been 6.5 years since I was first diagnosed with GBM, so radiation damage is starting to hit in.
I am doing GREAT and feel wonderful. So I expect this surgery to go well, and for me to recover quickly. The small tumor is located on the surface of my brain, in the left temp lobe. I am still on no meds. Only take herbal supplements.
I head down to UCSF on Tuesday the 16th to meet with Dr. Berger. The surgery goes from there, don't know the date yet.
Just wanted to let you guys know.
I hope all is going well for you guys. Don't get discouraged. I've made it 6.5 years, and plan on many more. You too!
God Bless, Cheryl Broyles
PS I'll give you an update when I know the surgery date.
Hello Friends and Family,
I had my WADA test on the 14th. It was a very interesting experience! Weird to have 1/2 of your brain asleep. I got to see stars and lighting in my left eye every time they shot dye into the catheter. Like 4th of July. The test itself only took about 15 minutes. But it took 3 hours to get my body prepared for the WADA test! One of the scary parts was that they had to strap me down to the table. My ankles strapped down, my shins, thighs, chest, and my wrists. They said, during the test, some people freak out, scream and wrestle trying to get off the table during the test. I stayed calm, but they still kept me tied down.
The results. I am left brain dominated for language. Just like the majority of people. We hoped that I was right brain dominated. We thought that may be the case since Dr. Berger didn't come across any language areas during my last surgery when he removed a golf ball size of my left temporal lobe. The language section must be hiding deep inside my lobe.
So now, there is not the option of removing my whole left temp lobe. Dr. Berger will have to do the surgery while I am awake again, and take it extremely carefully. He will test and map my brain as he is doing the surgery. He will remove all he can, until he hits language sensitive areas. The risk of me losing my ability to speak, read and write are very high now.
It was VERY weird when my left side of my brain was asleep. I completely understood what everyone was saying. But I could not talk. I could not even form a word in my mind. It was NOT like "thinking" the words, but they wouldn't come out. There were no words formed in my mind. Isn't that weird !!! That I understood what was being said, but couldn't even think of a word. It was all blank.
The good news is that, if I couldn't talk, I could still understand what all of you guys would be saying. So, if I come out of surgery unable to talk. Please don't think I am mentally out of it. My mind would still be clear. You would not have to talk to me like talking to a baby. I would understand what you said, I just wouldn't be able to respond to it.
When I was driving back to Oregon from UCSF, I passed by Mount Shasta. The sun was out and there was a beautiful blue sky. There was a smooth thin cloud laying over the peak of Mt. Shasta, like a blanket. I felt at peace. It was like a sign to me, that my next surgery was not going to be a big huge challenge of climbing a big mountain. Not this time. I really think I will come out of surgery with the ability to talk again.
Oh ya, I have to tell you guys this! When the radiologist was trying to get the catheter into my artery in my groin, he struggled with it for 20 minutes. The artery kept rolling and rolling to the side. Sometimes he would just stop and stand there, like trying to figure out what to do. Sometimes, he would give himself a break, walk off, turn around and come back and try again. I was worried that he would break down and try the other side. It hurt a little, and I was getting scared. All of a sudden I decided to pray about it. I said, "God, I know this situation is little, in the realm of such big things in the world. But I know you have the power to do so many things all at once. If it is your will, please let the doctor get it in NOW." The second I said NOW, the needle slipped into my artery. I was blown away. I just smiled, relaxed and thanked God. That was definitely not the first little miracle I had seen God do in my life.
I head to San Fran on Monday. Lots of pre-surgery tests and preparation on Tuesday. Surgery on Wed. the 21st. My plan is to come back from surgery, with the ability to write all of you again to let you know how it went.
Love to you all. God Bless, Cheryl Broyles 6 years 7 months and 24 days GBM survivor
Hello Family and Friends,
I was thinking late last night, "What would my life be like if I could not speak. Could I still do everything I needed to do? What if I could not write a book again, or tell people about how wonderful life is and how wonderful God is?"
I sat and thought hard. Then this came to mind........ Matthew 22:36-37 "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself."
Then I read ....... 1 John 3:13 Let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth.
The most important thing I can do, during my time on earth, is loving God and others with all my heart, soul and mind. 1 John 3:13 says I don't need words to do it!!!! Actions!!!! That makes me so happy to know that even if I come out of surgery, unable to talk, I am still fully able to do God's greatest command !!! That is the most important.
God Bless, Cheryl Broyles 6 year 7 month 25 day Glioblastoma survivor
Cheryl's MRI taken the night before the surgery, remained unchanged from the prior MRI taken the month before. There was no new tumor growth since the previous MRI.
The doctor removed the whole tumor and a big wide margin around the tumor. Cheryl's speech center was located, but it remained outside of the margin area, so it was not damaged. Cheryl did not loose her speech.
The doctor feels that from the initial look of the tumor, that it is the returning GBM, but it has not been confirmed by the pathology report yet.
We have so much to thank God for! The tumor did not grow during the past month; the tumor was not located in the speech center; the doctor was able to remove a large margin around the tumor without damaging the speech center.
I want to thank all of you for praying for Cheryl! As it pleased God to grant us our requests, may He receive all the praise, honor & glory due Him! Let's all sing songs of praise!
Judy Tennis Cheryl's mom
I am back home. Feeling good. Surgery went well. Dr. Berger was able to get out the whole GBM tumor and some extra, without messing with my language. Still tired, but feeling good. I feel so blessed. It has now been 6 years and 8 months and I plan on many more years to come!!!! I will be starting on some type of chemo soon, still trying to figure out what. Yes, please update my page on Donna's web site. I always want to encourage others going through the same thing. I feel so blessed and enjoy each second God gives me as a gift in my life. I look forward to my future and know God will be walking along with me, so I can grow each step of the way.
God Bless, Cheryl Broyles
Hello Friends and Family,
Thank you all so much for the great cards, emails, calls, prayers and love you have sent my way. I feel so surrounded by love. It means so much to me!!!!
I am feeling pretty well. My brain comes and goes, in terms of it's "sharpness". I am still on the Decadron, an anti-inflammatory steroid. If I am not on it, my brain swells and doesn't work. I end up not knowing what Matt is saying and I use the wrong words and my brain just shuts down. I use wrong words like bathroom instead of birthday. Or Matt will talk with me and I can't understand what he is saying. That is when I have to go lay down and take more Decadron. If I do not relax enough or my brain swells too fast, it can cause damage and cause a seizure. I'm trying to be careful. The tough of having a seizure and loosing my ability to drive a car would be hard for our family. My neuro-oncologist basically wants me to do nothing for a few months until my brain recovers. Overall, I am doing way better than what I had expected to do this soon. The bad news is, Decadron makes me VERY angry. It is a steroid that gives you a BAD attitude. I hope I can go off of it within a few weeks.
I talked to my neuro-oncologist yesterday and got the news on the tumor. It was a GBM (Glioblastome Multiforme) that had a little bit of Oligodendroglioma mixed within it. The GBM is grade 4 (the worst) and Oligo grade 1. He thinks it started out growing so slowly because of the Oligo mixed in it. He feels that maybe I have a better chance of keeping it at bay taking chemo, than if it was just a GBM alone. So I am going to start taking a chemotherapy called Temodar. For one year. My doc wanted me to start it in 3 weeks, but I am going to give myself 6 weeks to relax and let my own body get strong again. The chemo makes me feel sick and has a lot of risk with my blood cell counts. So I am going to get as healthy as I can before starting.
I feel like I am just starting to climb up another trial of a personal mountain. God blessed me wonderfully through my third brain surgery, but I feel like I have not made it to the peak yet, the climb is just starting. I know God will walk each step with me and give me the strength. I hope I don't have seizures, loss of immune system, confused mind while on chemo, etc. I'm trying to live in the moment.
Overall I feel very blessed. Considering the situation, I couldn't ask for anything better. I look forward to the future. I know that cancer is a situation for me that will probably never end. But it has also been a huge learning journey for me. Each new event I go through, I grown and learn more about the value of life. What life is about and the importance of love. I cherish each second in a way I never would have noticed. I pray every day to God, that I spend each second spreading love onto others around me. It is so easy for me to get hung up on little unimportant things at times. I hope I can always look at the big important things in life, which is family, friends and everyone within my reach. I wish I could reach out and touch people and fill them with love.
I just want all of you to know, that I feel you have all touched me and filled me with love. Even though many of your are hundreds of miles away, I can feel your love in my heart. You all mean so much to me. Thank you. Life goes on. Keep on Keeping on (KOKO) God Bless,
Cheryl Broyles 6 year, 8 month, 8 day brain tumor survivor
Hello Family and Friends,
I just wanted you guys to know that my last MRI showed a brain tumor is back. The good news is that it is small, only 2-3mm, and located on the meninge. That is the type of cells that cover over and protect the brain. So the tumor is actually not "in" the brain, but covering over it. They do not know what type of tumor it is. It could be the Glioblastoma back, or radiation damage causing a meningioma or a sarcoma. None of them are good at all. Once it's in your meninge, it can travel down your spine. My neuro-oncologist wants me to go through another brain surgery to remove it. There is a possibility of having Gama Knife radiation. I need to talk with my neuro-surgeon and figure out what to do next.
I definitely believe in the power of prayer, so wanted to get the news out. The GREAT news is that I am completely in peace about it all. I know God loves me and has a plan for me. I am excited about my future. I am ready to climb my next "Life's Mountain".
Talking about "Life's Mountains". I was just on the local NBC news today! They did an interview with me about my book "Life's Mountains". Maybe one day it will be on the shelves of Barns & Nobles! My goal with the book is to encourage others going through hard times in life - to not give up hope. If you have not seen it yet, you can check it out at www.cherylbroyles.com
Hope all is going well with you all. I'll let you know how it goes........
8 year 8 months GBM survivor
Hello Family and Friends,
Thank you all for the encouraging e-mails you sent me!
I just wanted to let you know that my brain surgery on March 9th went well at UCSF in San Fran. I am back home and recovering very well. The tumor was the GBM back, but they were able to remove it all. I can't believe it was brain surgery #4, and I feel this great ! At least this time they did not have to remove a big chunk of my brain along with the tumor, so I feel cognitively good.
I'm not sure yet what the next step is. UCSF is doing genetic testing on the tumor, to determine what type of treatment I should take at this point. I will definitely be back on chemo, just not sure what type yet. The good news is that now after surgery I get a "chemo break" YA!!! I've been off the chemo now for a month and it feels wonderful. My 28 stitches are healing well.
I feel very blessed. It's now been 8 years and 9 months since I was first diagnosed with brain cancer and they told me I only had a year to live. I'm loving life and feel surrounded by God's peace. I'm feeling so good, that in a week, while the boys are on their schools spring break, we are going camping at Clear Lake and having fun fishing bass and catfish.
I guess this was just another bump in the road. I'm excited about God's plan for my future. Cant wait to see what comes next.
Sending LOVE to all of you,
Back to The Survivor Stories Page