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Suffering pain and a thankful perspective about a tumor

Brain tumors are scary!

A diagnosis of a brain tumor will always shock you, no matter if the tumor can be removed or not.

It’s life-changing for everyone involved and often family members start initiatives or choose a work field to face this experience.

The patient’s perspective

Several years ago, my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It shocked the whole family. We were forced to accept and to deal with a scary diagnosis, a heavy cocktail of pain, desperation, numbness, fear, and hope.

My mom had to undergo an extremely risky surgery. Difficult decisions needed to be made. Further, there was a high risk of my mom losing her eyesight during the surgery.

Thank God, it went well. The tumor was removed and her eyesight was retained. First, my mom had check-ups every 6 months, then every year and now every 2 years. The tumor never returned.

The scientific perspective

Treatment options for brain tumor patients improved over the years and research is still ongoing. I had the honor to be part of a research team who developed a new treatment called heavy-ion cancer therapy.

It was developed at the famous German research Centre GSI Helmholtz Institute under the visionary leadership of Prof. Dr. Gerhard Kraft. He received many awards for his achievement, including the Federal Cross of Merit of Germany. The Therapy is now successfully used in specialized hospitals.

Gerhard KraftProfessor Dr. Gerhard Kraft

Tumor therapy - picture courtesy of GSI Helmholtz InstituteBrain tumor therapy
at the GSI Helmholtz Institute (Picture courtesy of GSI Helmholtz Institute)

It was a long journey! Research started in 1981 while the first patient was treated in 1997. At the beginning, many proposals were written, lots of papers filed and many nights spent working. But then the vision became reality.

The advantage of this treatment is the destruction of the brain tumor while healthy areas of the brain stay unharmed.

 Sometimes we don’t see the relationship between
the work of scientists and its use in reality Click To Tweet


Imagine a radiation beam entering the brain with no power until it reaches the tumor. There it develops an incredible strong destructive power damaging the tumor. After this peak of power, the radiation beam leaves the brain with no further destruction of the healthy brain.

Final thoughts

Sometimes we don’t see the relationship between the work of scientists and its use in reality.

Today you have!

You have seen it through two people who are part of my personal life journey. My mom, who suffered a brain tumor, and my former boss, who followed a scientific vision of treating a brain tumor.

My mom’s surgery was two years before the heavy-ion cancer therapy was used. She would have been a candidate for this treatment. The risks would have been less than the risks of the surgery she had.

Next time you hear the word science don’t think of geek or boring school lessons.

Next time you hear the word science think of people who work through the night to one day save your mom’s life.

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Hi I'm Ilka, a self-development writer and lovable scientist with a knowledgeable expertise in brain science. I help people realize the power our behavior has on our brain - and the other way around.

rmariowright - October 27, 2013

Truly powerful. Thank you for sharing this.

simplyilka - October 27, 2013

Thanks a lot Mario. I am so glad you liked it 🙂

Lesley Dawson - October 27, 2013

It’s true, most of us don’t realise all the hard work that’s going on by the scientists until there comes a breakthrough. They are very dedicated people. I’m glad your mom’s surgery went well and hope that she continues to enjoy good health.

muggleinconverse - October 27, 2013

I’m so glad that your story had such a happy ending. How fantastic to get something so positive out of something so scary.

    simplyilka - October 27, 2013

    Thanks so much for your sweet and empathetic words. Oh yes, it was scary. And a lesson for life at the end 🙂

Marylin Warner - November 14, 2013

Wonderful article!
This is amazing information that gives me a new perspective. Thank you.

Introducing 10 famous female scientists – the first three! simplyilka - June 19, 2014

[…] Element 109 of the periodic system is named in her honor ‘Meitnerium’. It was discovered at the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research where I worked for 4 years (as described in my post How tumor therapy became personal). […]

Sherri - June 25, 2014

Thank you so much for linking to this post Ilka, I am both deeply touched at your mother’s journey (and I do hope and pray that she is still doing well) but also at the wonderful strides being made for treatment of this terrible disease. You scientists are heroes in my book. Bless you dear friend and a big hug for you from me 🙂
Sherri recently posted…WPC: Between The Trees On A Croatian IslandMy Profile

    simplyilka - June 26, 2014

    We are very grateful Sherri! My mom is still doing well. It is really great to see how much science has done to help people all over the world; even there is still much to do.

    I thank you for you feeling with me! A big hug back to you from me 🙂

dancrofts - December 6, 2016

Thank you for sharing this deeply personal and beautiful story. Have you been following the recent bipartisan efforts at the White House to “end cancer as we know it”?
dancrofts recently posted…A *Possible* I-Told-You-So…My Profile

    simplyilka - December 12, 2016

    Hi Dan!

    Welcome to my blog. I’m thrilled to see you here as well 🙂 And thank you for your kind words.

    I’ve read some articles about the’end cancer as we know it’ initiative. It is a step in the right direction. Catching cancer in an early stage might be possible with this initiative and that’s good. Of course, nothing is perfect. Guess we have to see what comes out of it. The idea is important.

    Thanks for sharing, Ilka

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