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Resident Diagnosed with Brain Cancer, Raises Money for Research

After being diagnosed with brain cancer, completing treatments and having brain surgery, resident Brett Johnson projects positivity and gratitude for his life.

“Life is good,” he said, despite all he has been through.

A voice teacher and Boston University graduate, Brett was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor (Anaplastic Oligodendroglioma) in 2009. He was just 47-years-old.

“It was pretty awful,” he said. “Very unexpected.”

Brett had been experiencing severe headaches, and decided to see his primary care doctor at North Reading Medical. In order to rule out anything “serious” his doctor suggested Brett have an MRI. Shortly after the test, he received a phone call from the doctor requesting that he return to the office.

Back at North Reading Medical, he found out that he had a brain tumor.

“The first words out of my mouth were: you really must hate having to give news like this,” he said. “It didn’t register.”

It did register by the time he arrived at his house. Luckily, his husband was working from home that day and they were able to “fall apart together.”

Brett contacted a friend who was able to help him secure an appointment at Dana Farber. In December of that year, Brett had his first brain surgery followed by 33 days of radiation and chemotherapy.

Now in what they call “watchful waiting” Brett underwent MRI’s every few months. It wasn’t long before his doctors “didn’t like what they saw.” In February of 2012, he underwent brain surgery for the second time.

Since the second surgery, “everything is stable.”

“I can say the number one thing that I’ve learned, that I’m aware of, is how grateful I am for my life,” he said. “Everything that’s happened has been a blessing, where it was, the kind of treatment I’ve had… I am very, very grateful.” 

Brett is participating in the National Brain Tumor Society’s Boston Brain Tumor Walk for the second time on Sunday, Oct. 6 in Boston. Brett and his team had a goal of raising $10,000, which they have already surpassed. So far, they have raised $14,000 and still “have another month.” All of the proceeds go to brain tumor research and raising awareness of the disease.

“I feel really committed to them,” Brett said. “There’s nothing else like it in the world that is so targeted to what’s wrong with me. I feel amazingly blessed, thankful, appreciative that there is something out there that they're giving out grants to scientists to solve my tumor.”

Brett’s entire family is joining him for the walk, including his 83-year-old mother. 

Brett has lived in North Reading since 1994. He was the chair of the cultural council for six years and “loves the town.” Currently, he is a voice teacher in a studio at his home.

John Intorcio September 13, 2013 at 11:56 AM
Go Brett! Keep fighting!
Brett Johnson September 13, 2013 at 01:16 PM
Thanks, John! I appreciate your support.

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