Brain Tumor Survivor Is Thankful for the Little Things

close up portrait of cancer survivor, Sarah Delawder

Brain tumor survivor Sarah Delawder says it took a lifechanging experience to learn to be thankful for the little things in life – things she says she didn’t even notice before.

That includes having the energy to get out of bed, walk her dog, or take a yoga class. She says she has more balance in her life now.

“I remain positive and I don’t let other people’s negativity affect me,” said Delawder. “I dare greatly and make adventurous choices because I don’t know if I’ll have 5 more years or 50 more years.”

Tennis-ball size tumor

In early 2017, Delawder began having episodes of tingling and heat sensations down the left side of her body, along with changes in her vision. She figured it was stress. She was 36 years old, had 2 small boys, and just started a new job as assistant principal of a high school in Santa Clarita, California. But her husband, a registered nurse, insisted she see a neurologist – a doctor who specializes in the nervous system, which includes the brain.

Delawder put off making the appointment, but her husband kept pushing her until she finally gave in. The neurologist ordered MRI scans, but Delawder put off those too because she doesn’t like small spaces. But her husband again persisted, the neurologist prescribed a sedative, and with the help of a very patient radiology technician, she got through the MRI.

In February, Delawder was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma of the brain. Her tumor was the size of a tennis ball. She had surgery that removed most of the tumor, then radiation and chemotherapy.

Getting through treatment

Delawder had complications from treatment that landed her back in the hospital a couple of times for a pulmonary embolism – a dangerous blockage in the lung – and for stroke-like symptoms that required medication. Other side effects included fatigue and hair loss. But she says she’s grateful for the things that went right and the support she received from her family and friends.

“You have to find ways to be thankful for all the things you can control,” said Delawder. “At age 36 with two kids and brain cancer, I didn’t know what was going to happen. I lost my hair; I didn’t feel like myself. I was not the wife I was, not the mom I was, not the employee I was. But I have friends who showed up and picked up my kids from school when I couldn’t. You have to find a way to shift perspective and be thankful for things you didn’t even notice before.”

Telling her story

It’s really unfortunate that it takes a punch in the gut to open one’s eyes to an alternative view, but no matter what is going on, constantly take stock of what you’re grateful for and how you can choose to offer goodness back into the world.

Sarah Delawder

Today Delawder is continuing her treatment with oral chemotherapy and she’s gone back to work. She says she’s found inspiration by reading others’ stories on the American Cancer Society website and other sites, and wants to give back by telling her story, too.

“If I can offer my story to somebody and make them feel connected or better, I want to do that,” she said. “The more stories that are out there, the more likely you are to find someone whose story is like yours. Everybody’s experience is different.”

And she offers this piece of advice: “It’s really unfortunate that it takes a punch in the gut to open one’s eyes to an alternative view, but no matter what is going on, constantly take stock of what you’re grateful for and how you can choose to offer goodness back into the world.” 

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

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