Taking Control and Fighting Back
Strength and determination. That’s what brain tumor survivor, Brian Wiles, needed nine years ago when he received the scariest diagnosis of his life. Now on the other side of that diagnosis, Brian uses that same strength and determination to provide hope to other brain tumor patients and survivors.
In 2009, Brian Wiles was having headaches that were finally bothering him enough that he saw his family physician who recommended an MRI. While she determined the headaches were from sinusitis, she did find something else on the MRI.
Uncertain of what it was, she sent Brian to the University of Cincinnati (UC) Brain Tumor Center to see John Tew, MD, UC Health neurosurgeon, professor of neurosurgery at the UC College of Medicine and a co-founder of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute.
“This guy is a legend—he built this brain tumor center. And I decided at that point, I was going to trust the process,” says Brian.
When he met with Dr. Tew, “the first words out of his mouth were: you’ve got meningioma. That stopped my world.”
Meningioma is a tumor, usually benign, that forms on membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord just inside the skull. Brian’s was found just above his left ear.
A father of three young children, he and his wife wondered—what if this was the end?
“Doctor [Tew] said there are three things we can do: we can eradicate, we can radiate, or we can wait. For me, I decided to go on the offense—I wanted it out of there. And the sooner the better.”
Then Brian decided to get into the best shape of his life, throwing himself into intense fitness classes four to five times a week.
“Two days before the surgery I did a killer fitness class … and I remember waking up feeling a little tight from the workout.” Brian says it “completely took my mind off the surgery and put it back on to me and my body.”
“I thought, I fight this, I come off stronger on the other side. I had a wife and kids to think about. And I had to be positive. I come out on the other side and maybe I make a difference.”
Dr. Tew and his team used image-guidance technology to “localize” the tumor, establishing its boundaries for a clean removal.
“You can’t see how far this tumor extends with your eyes or with a microscope,” says Dr. Tew. “But you can see it on the imaging, the brain scans. Working with image-guided surgery provides us with a preoperative map that shows the tumor’s breadth. As a result, we know how much of the carpet of the dura, a protective, leather-like covering of the brain, to remove.”
Because Brian’s tumor was positioned on the left vocal cord and swallowing nerve, Dr. Tew and his team closely monitored Brian’s nerve function during the operation. “We were able to save that completely,” Dr. Tew notes. “Brian’s voice, swallowing and speaking are excellent.”
However, following the surgery Brian did suffer permanent hearing loss in his left ear. It took some adjustments for him to adapt his impairment and recovery from the surgery, but he was determined to not let anything slow him down.
“My goal was to get back to work in four weeks. And I did that.”
“With everything that happened to me, it started with Dr. Tew. And it was UC Brain Tumor Center that really helped me.
“Things aren’t always going to be great, but there’s always hope.”