My name is Joe Rice. I am 37 years old with 3 kids. On May 9th, 2011, my life went into chaos. That morning I went in for an MRI exam because I was having seizure-type symptoms on the left side of my body. These symptoms trace back near the end of December of 2010 with slight hand shaking while my wife was in the hospital. I blew it off as nerves due to the fact that I hate hospitals and what my wife was going through. Over the course of the next several weeks, the hand shaking got worse, and was combined with my head turning to the left uncontrollably. I called my doctor but unfortunately he was on leave. I got an appointment with another doctor and told him what was going on with my arm jerking, hands shaking, and head turning to the left uncontrollably. He told me that it was likely stress. He gave me a prescription for Zanax and told me to take one if I felt an attack coming on. Then he told me I needed to see a psychologist. But something inside me thought there was more to it.
The symptoms continued to worsen. The norm was one "attack" a day or so. The attacks were getting different too. It felt like a demon crawled into my head right before my hands and arm would start to shake. Then it went into my legs, causing me to limp. Or if I was sitting, my leg would keep jerking backward. Around the end of April, while I was at work, I had three bad attacks in one day. The last one was around 5 PM. I went outside to smoke as I was limping and shaking. I didn’t want people to see me so I tried to hide.
Crying, I went back into the building and told the sales manager there was something very wrong and I think I need to go to the emergency room (ER). The sales manager took me home and my wife took me straight to the ER when I got home. At the ER, they took blood and said there was nothing they could do but refer me to a neurologist.
A couple of days later I was in with the neurologist, and she said she thought they were just seizures and put me on seizure meds. She ordered an EEG and an MRI. The EEG showed some abnormalcy with the right side of my brain. The neurologist called about two hours later and asked if I could come in right away. I made her tell me why on the phone. I asked if I had a brain tumor, and she said that she didn't want to tell me over the phone, but yes it looked like a brain tumor. I told her I would be there in a minute. I ran to the kitchen, where my wife was doing the dishes, and I screamed at the top of my lungs that the MRI showed a brain tumor. My wife collapsed. I called my dad and we went to go see the neurologist. When we got there, she showed us the MRI and all we could do was cry. She used the word "aggressive". She wanted me to admit myself right away, but I elected to go home and spend the night with my family and check in the next morning in Rockford, Illinois.
I had my last cigarette on May 10th on the way to admit myself to the hospital. The whole experience was a nightmare – from doctors coming in and telling me it could be an infection in the brain, to the radiologist putting grade 4 cancer in his report. The neurosurgeon told me the biopsy could leave me with "extreme weakness" on my left side due to where the tumor was. They also told me there was a good chance I had cancer in other places of body and was thrown into my brain. Turns out it was a primary brain tumor. My wife and I never thought we would be glad to hear that it was just a brain tumor!
On May 12th, I was taken to U.W. Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. I had to explain to my two oldest children that their dad may only have a short time to live, but we should be grateful for any time we have. That was the hardest thing I have ever, and will ever have to do in my life.
Within one hour of being in the hospital, the surgeon was in my room explaining that he felt he could get the tumor out with minimal, if any, permanent damage. I asked him if I would wake up from the surgery. He just laughed and said, "We're not in the business of killing people."
The next day, they did the surgery and the surgeon was able to get the entire tumor (and it was confirmed on the MRI). I went home 3 days later, with NO side effects. All the nurses and doctors were amazed! I was determined to get through it okay for the sake of my family. They are all that matters to me.
When we got home we got on the computer right away (the surgeon said he was pretty sure it was glioblastoma). Once we started looking up glioblastoma, all the wind left our sails about the surgery going so well. It seemed it didn't matter much if they got it all out (still the best case scenario) but that it would most likely be back. So for weeks after getting home, my wife and I cried as we surfed the web for any good news about this diagnosis. We didn't find much in the way good outcomes for people with glioblastoma.
Then a silver lining came – Greg – one of my new best friends and positive attitude mentor. I still am not smoking and my wife has changed all of our food to organics. Greg and I talk daily. He is helping me receive further treatment that I was never offered at either Rockford or U.W. Now with his help, I have an appointment at the hospital where he had his treatments seven years ago. He still hasn't had a reoccurrence.
Right now, today, I feel great! I can’t wait to be a part of Greg's team geared toward helping people in our situation...Greg says we are not stats! We are Greg and Joe, and we will beat this awful cancer with a positive attitude and a dedication to survive.