by Heather Knies
Heather was in her early 20s—with dreams of a new career, falling in love, marrying and having children—when doctors gave her only a few more months to live.
Heather was diagnosed with the deadliest kind of brain tumor—a grade 4 glioblastoma—the kind of brain tumor that kills most people within 14 months of diagnosis. For brain tumor patients, their loved ones, and surgeons alike, a glioblastoma is the number-one enemy.
This form of cancer strikes men and women of all races and ages. It is the leading cause of cancer deaths in children under age 20 and fewer than 10 percent of all people diagnosed with glioblastoma survive five years.
Heather was one of the lucky ones. She underwent aggressive surgery at Barrow Neurological Institute, followed with radiation treatments and several years of chemotherapy.
Against the odds, 10 years later, Heather is still alive. Her story is nothing short of miraculous. But it gets even better: Several years ago, Heather fell in love and married. And then in 2012 she and her husband, Joe, were blessed with a healthy baby girl, Zoey.
“It is very rare for a patient to survive as long as Heather has with this type of brain tumor. I am very, very surprised and elated that Heather has made such a remarkable recovery,” says her surgeon Robert Spetzler, MD, director of Barrow Neurological Institute. “She has no neurological deficits and her MRI scan demonstrates no evidence of any residual tumor.”
Nearly nine years later, Heather’s cancer has not returned. She believes the advanced medical treatment she received along with her positivity is what enabled her to overcome her brain tumor. Her daughter is also a miracle since chemotherapy can lead to infertility.
“I knew all along I would beat this cancer,” says Heather. “When a doctor tells you that you only have a few months to live, most people believe it. I never did and I think that’s partly why I’m alive today. I knew I was getting the best medical care and I was going to be defiant and survive.”