In 2010, shortly after achieving a lifelong goal of becoming a professional BMX athlete, Josh Perry received his first brain tumor diagnosis and wasn’t sure what his future would hold. Josh had a meningioma, a benign tumor that caused intense headaches and significantly impaired vision. Today, thanks to medical technology, Josh Perry is a happy, healthy 27-year-old with his entire life ahead of him.
A brain tumor begins when healthy cells in the brain change and grow uncontrollably, forming a mass. According to Cancer.Net, nearly 78,000 new cases of primary brain tumors (including cancerous and non-cancerous tumors) were diagnosed in 2015, and nearly 700,000 people in the U.S. alone are living with primary brain and central nervous system tumors. Meningioma is the most common primary brain tumor, making up about 35% of all primary brain tumors. It can cause serious symptoms if it grows and presses on the brain or spinal cord or grows into the brain tissue.
Josh’s tumor was successfully removed through an open craniotomy, an invasive surgical procedure that requires opening of the skull. His recovery was slow but complete, and within two months, Josh was back on the BMX circuit. Two years later during his yearly check-up, an MRI showed two new tumors at the original cancer site. Josh felt his world grind to a halt for the second time. The optimism he’d built following his first diagnosis, surgery and recovery was squashed. Josh knew that there had to be an alternative to invasive brain surgery and after the harsh reality of a second diagnosis set in, he committed to finding another way.
THE TREATMENT: RADIOTHERAPY
Following extensive internet research and discussions with his surgeon, Josh learned about and decided on a form of radiotherapy or radiation therapy called stereotactic radiosurgery. With this non-invasive approach, beams of radiation are precisely delivered to specific areas within the brain without surgically entering the skull.
There are many different forms of radiotherapy, most of which use different types of high-energy radiation, such as X-rays, electron beams, protons or gamma rays, to damage or kill cancerous and non-cancerous cells so they can’t reproduce. Patients generally receive a specific number of treatments over an established period of time.
One week after his treatment Josh was once again at the helm of his BMX bike. He reported the procedure to be painless and similar to getting an MRI, only shorter. In addition to continuing to compete on the BMX circuit, Josh is channeling his experiences and his newly earned certification as a holistic health coach towards broad-scale health awareness programs and campaigns. As one of a handful of people to have survived three separate brain tumors, Josh believes it is his mission to help educate people with brain tumors about their treatment options.