Survivor Stories


Brian Trainor

It was on January 7th that Penn law student Brian Trainor, a healthy and active 31 year old with no known symptoms had a sudden seizure. Brian was rushed to HUP, where he received a CT scan and MRI, which uncovered a 2.5 centimeter tumor on the left frontal lobe of his brain.

Brian decided to get several opinions on his potential diagnoses, and quickly chose Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center to receive his cancer treatments. Seen by Drs. Don O'Rourke and oncology radiologist Robert H. Lustig, he was soon diagnosed with Grade III anaplastic oligoastrocytoma; a particularly aggressive form of brain tumor. Eight days after his diagnoses, Brian had brain surgery.

"The staff and doctors at the Abramson's Cancer Center made me feel comfortable", and "the confidence that Dr. O'Rourke instills is very comforting for someone undergoing brain tumor treatment", says Brian, speaking gratefully about his experience during surgery.

Four days after surgery Brian was released. He met with Dr. Lustig who presented him with an opportunity to take part in a special proton therapy clinical trial for his type of tumor, in conjunction with his chemotherapy. Proton therapy would be particularly advantageous for Brian because it presents fewer negative side effects and could preserve his cognitive function, which is valuable for Brian's desired career of being a prosecutor. Brian enrolled in the trial and was one of the first patients to undergo the revolutionary proton therapy treatment at the Abramson Cancer Center.

Today, Brian is physically fine, and cognitively improving. He has been able to finish a full semester's worth of credits and remains on target to graduate with his law class in 2011. Like many cancer patients, he is appreciating life's small things through a new perspective. "It's been a struggle, especially since the organ involved is the one upon which I still hope to rely on as a future prosecutor. I have been amazingly blessed by a great surgical outcome, latest treatments and specialized care as well as a wonderful set of family, friends, and of course an amazing wife. Having this combined support has made all the difference on my outlook since my diagnosis."

Brian is one of the first patients able to experience proton therapy. "It's amazing how fast this sort of technology moves. I can't imagine the technology for brain tumors 15 years ago and what we will see in 15 more years to come. More funding can certainly accelerate these changes. More funding can increase the life expectancy that was given to me, and many more patients who will face this disease and other cancers!"

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