Brain tumor survivor finds ways to be positive

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Tim Francuz is back at work in the radiology department of a hospital, training to do a half-marathon, and encouraging others in his support group to stay positive and healthy – all while continuing to undergo chemotherapy to try to shrink the tumor in his brain. “I think the best medicine we have is staying positive and looking on the bright side of what life gives you,” says Francuz.

My son is a hero

Francuz was working with his primary care doctor in November 2015 to try to figure out what was causing a headache that would not go away. The doctor advised him to see a neurologist, a specialist who treats disorders in the brain and spinal cord, and he made an appointment. But before the date arrived, Francuz had a seizure. When it happened, he was in the grocery store with his 11-year-old son, Timmy. Timmy stayed calm and used his father’s finger to unlock his cell phone, then called 911.

“My son is a hero. He saved my life,” said Francuz. “My son is awesome!”

In the emergency room, Francuz had an MRI that revealed a tumor in his brain. Doctors said surgery was risky, but had to be done right away or Francuz could die. They warned he might lose the ability to speak or have other serious side effects, but luckily that didn’t happen. Tests of the tumor found it was a glioblastoma multiforme, a type of fast-growing brain tumor. Surgery was followed by radiation and chemotherapy, and continuing follow-up scans to check whether the tumor has come back.

Finding ways to be positive

Francuz had six weeks of radiation five days a week. His wife drove him to all his treatments. “My wife has been amazing,” said Francuz. “Caretakers have a huge responsibility every day.”

He also underwent 42 straight days of chemotherapy that he took as a pill every day. At the same time, he took anti-nausea medicine, and says he didn’t have side effects from the chemo. But the radiation left him with fatigue and what he calls radiation fog. Other people call this chemo brain, thinking and memory problems that can be caused by radiation to the brain.

Francuz found that walking helped him to fight off both the fatigue and the radiation fog. He walked or jogged for about 90 minutes a day, either on a treadmill at the gym or outside. “Exercising outside also gives you a chance to reflect a little bit,” said Francuz. “I’m Catholic and I believe that all our lives are chosen – we already have a path where we’re going. All the prayers people do for us help us see that and stay positive. It really helps everyone else to know that everyone is awesome. Everyone has something awesome in them.”

When he exercises, Francuz uses an electronic tracker that measures his activity. He connects with other people online from around the world, and they encourage and support each other. Some of them have also battled cancer. “If I can help just one person enlighten themselves or feel better or change for the positive, it’s all worth it,” said Francuz.

Choose the best path

His latest scans show that Francuz still has a tumor on the same spot on his brain, so he’s back on chemotherapy. He says he knows the treatment may not cure his cancer, but will help him live as long and as well as possible. “I’m doing the best I can,” he said. “I don’t want to know the shortness of it. I want to live the longest with it.” He says living with the brain tumor is something he can handle, but it’s tougher for his wife, son, and 8-year-old daughter.

Last week, Timmy Francuz was honored by the Boy Scouts of America with a certificate of merit for saving his father’s life. “You have to stay calm in life when you have traumatic events. You have to calm down and see what you need to do in the situation. That’s what my son did. You want to try to choose the best path. I thank him often for saving my life,” said Francuz.

Since his return to his job, Francuz has already solved 2 problems that would have cost the hospital where he works $70,000. He’s jogging 5 to 10 miles a day in preparation for a half-marathon next month. He is also looking for a clinical trial he can join because he wants to help doctors find new treatments for the kind of tumor he has. “If I can help them figure out what to do to help other people in the future, that would be amazing,” said Francuz.


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