The Story of Hank
On May 8, 2003 our lives were forever changed. We received a phone call from our neurologist saying that Hank had a brain tumor. As frightening as it was we knew we couldn't sit back and wait for answers. We immediately started working on what we would do next. Hank's neurosurgeon did a biopsy, and then referred him to UCLA to see Dr. Linda Liau. We are eternally grateful for the referral. Who knows what would have happened and where we would be if Dr. Barry Ceverha did not suggest we see Dr. Liau? As the journey began 4 years ago, Hank never asked "why me." Instead he said, "why not me." As a captain of the Long Beach fire department for the past 20 years, he was always helping others, so this was a side of medicine he didn't know. Being a patient was not easy for him, as our hero, husband father, son, brother, uncle and friend to many, he now had to battle something bigger than a fire - he was fighting to survive.
We met Dr. Liau for a consultation, which lead to an awake craniotomy. Wow! We were fascinated and scared but ready for whatever needed to be done. Hank's surgery took approximately 5 hours; those were the longest hours of my life. His surgery was successful and Dr. Liau was able to remove the entire tumor. One week post surgery Hank had his first and only seizure, again as frightening as it was, we were committed to moving forward and not let this weaken our spirits. Everything was going well and the only issue was numbness and weakness of Hank's right side. This damage was due to the tumor and Hank started physical therapy to hopefully get some of that back. To this day, the numbness remains but it doesn't stop him. He started radiation, which lasted 6 weeks, then chemotherapy for 2 years. He was also a part of Dr. Liau's phase I clinical trial - the Dendretic Cell vaccine. All these things combined with his great attitude and lots of prayers, I believe this has allowed him to survive.
The only thing that was hard to deal with was that he would have to retire from the job he loved, firefighting. Hank worked for the Long Beach Fire Department for approximately 20 years. Firefighter, paramedic and Captain, a job where he helped others, a job he enjoyed. Although he left the job, our "fire family" has never left his side. The men and women of L.B.F.D. have consistently been with us throughout the last 4 years, and will continue to be a part of our lives forever. Despite that, he has now been able to enjoy being at home with our two daughters, Noelle 17 and Jessica 14. Being a part of those crazy teenage years, he now sees as a Blessing. Spending time with his family is what's most important to him.
We have made many new friends with Brain tumors, some have not survived, but they are a great and amazing group who have bonded together to help each other and others newly diagnosed.
We will continue to pray and fight for each and every day. 4 years and counting...