An Ongoing Journey with Brain Cancer

Suanne Zankowski felt a sensation of sudden numbness in her left foot, which spread slowly in the days that followed. Within a few weeks, she was completely paralyzed below her neck on the left side of her body. She underwent several MRI scans at her local hospital in Burlington to determine the cause of her paralysis.

Patient Suanne Zankowski

Suanne Zankowski

“On the day I was scheduled to discuss the MRI results with my doctor, I was brought into the hospital on stretcher because I had a seizure,” Suanne recalls. “Then I had another seizure while I was at the hospital.”

Suanne was shocked when a CT scan revealed a 5 cm brain tumour. She was quickly scheduled for surgery at Hamilton General Hospital.

“My doctor told me that he removed almost all traces of the tumour, but I had to wait six weeks for pathology to determine a diagnosis,” says Suanne. “I recovered at my local hospital during those six weeks, and then I was transferred to Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre to rehabilitate the left side of my body. This was in November 2011.”

“I’m here today and am hopeful for the future.”
– Suanne Zankowski

It was at Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre where Suanne received the devastating diagnosis of stage IV gliosarcoma, a rare form of brain cancer. She was given 18 to 24 months to live. Six weeks of radiation therapy were followed by 14 months of chemotherapy in an attempt to stem the cancer.

“I felt fine for a few years following the treatment, but in 2015 an MRI showed a new growth in my brain. Stereotactic radiosurgery was used to shrink the tumour, followed by seven months of chemotherapy. I completed treatment in July 2016.”

Suanne is currently undergoing treatment for an additional brain tumour that was discovered in fall 2017.

“Although my journey is ongoing, I’m here today and am hopeful for the future thanks to my talented health care team, which includes countless doctors, nurses, therapists, staff members and environmental aids. Support for the Foundation will help these medical professionals stay on the forefront of new treatments, education and technology, which will help more patients like me.”