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This article was published 31/7/2017 (1109 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Janelle Lamontagne is your typical 29-year-old Saskatchewanian-turned-Brandonite. She has a job at the hospital here in the city where she works as a medical speech-language pathologist, and loves spending time with her family, friends and dog.
She has also been living with an asymptomatic brain tumour the size of a golf ball.
Since the discovery of her tumour, Lamontagne has undergone an awake craniotomy at the Health and Sciences Centre in Winnipeg, where 99.99 per cent of the tumour was removed, according to her neurosurgeon.
"My tumour was discovered in a very random but fortunate chain of events," Lamontagne said.
She suffers from a rare bleeding disorder, called acquired von Willebrand’s disease, which caused a vein in her arm to rupture. After reacting badly to a treatment called Intravenous Immunoglobulin (IVIG), Lamontagne ended up back in the emergency room with a severe migraine. As a result of a CT scan that was ordered to rule out a brain bleed, a tumour was discovered.
"It was the size of a golf ball," Lamontagne said. "And I didn’t and continue to show no symptoms whatsoever."
At the time of discovery, an MRI was ordered to investigate what neurologists hoped was a cyst. After determining that it was, in fact, a tumour, Lamontagne was referred to a neurosurgeon in Winnipeg who speculated that her tumour was a grade two oligodendroglioma, which is commonly found in men and women ages 20 to 40.
"It’s never good to have a brain tumour, but that’s definitely a better one to have," Lamontagne said.
An awake craniotomy was recommended to remove the tumour, which Lamontagne underwent on June 29.
When the pathology result came back, it was confirmed that the tumour was actually a grade three anaplastic astrocytoma, a cancerous tumour.
"I know there’s a lot of stuff in the news about John McCain and his grade four glioblastoma, Gord Downie same thing," Lamontagne said. "I would describe this has the little sibling of those. The anaplastic astrocytomas, they do actually transition and become more aggressive and turn into glioblastomas."
She said the tumour has tentacle-like parts that connected to nearby tissue. For that reason, her neurosurgeon said it would be impossible to remove the entire tumour.
Lamontagne will undergo chemotherapy seven days a week, and radiation five days a week for six weeks at Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre, followed by another full year of chemotherapy five days of the week in Brandon.
Luckily, Lamontagne has the option to take chemotherapy in pill form.
"It’s been very overwhelming," Lamontagne said. "The hardest part, I think, is that I feel completely normal. I have no symptoms, so it’s hard to understand why I went through a craniotomy and I’m going to start chemo and radiation when I feel perfectly fine."
She said the experience has been particularly hard on her loved ones, which has in turn been hard for her.
"I work with the adult population in acute care," Lamontagne said. "I’ve actually worked with a lot of patients with brain tumours … I hope this gives me a chance to better relate to my patients when I can finally return to my job."
She said she’s still in the process of learning how to cope, by documenting her personal thoughts in a private blog. Lamontagne also said she took part in the Winnipeg Brain Tumour Walk 2017 on June 23 and got to meet other people who were going on the same journey she was struggling with.
"In a way it kind of normalized it because I was able to talk to other people going through the same thing," Lamontagne said.
A benefit social is being held for Lamontagne, on Sept. 22 at the Victoria Inn Hotel and Convention Centre in Brandon.
"To assist her in accomplishing her treatment her mother needs to take off work to care for Janelle though this time. Her original hope was to return to work within a few months but now her new diagnosis changes that plan," Lamontagne’s friend Kristin Guild said in a Facebook post. "To help offset costs for Janelle, we are putting on a benefit social and are hopeful our community will help us raise money by contributing gifts that can be auctioned off or sponsor the food or booze depending on our venue."
Those interested in attending or contributing can contact Kristin Guild at 204-730-0882.
» Twitter: @mdsolomon12
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