In 2001, 29 year-old Jim Heath enjoyed a life of little worry and responsibility. He had moved to Flagstaff, Arizona, to spend his summer hiking and biking. "I could not have been happier, fitter, or more carefree," he says. In July, his summer of fun was cut short when a massive grand mal seizure put him in the emergency room.
Jim had a stage I anaplastic astrocytoma, an aggressive type of brain tumor. He needed immediate surgery to remove it.
Two years later, he was back in the hospital with another tumor. Jim then started chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Throughout his trials with cancer Jim's family was very involved, traveling away from their home to support him in person. In 2004, Jim moved to Utah to be closer to them. He was referred to Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) and Howard Colman, MD, PhD, Director of Medical Neuro-Oncology and associate professor in the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Utah School of Medicine.
By 2008, Jim's treatment seemed successful. He was starting to get used to "clean" MRIs. "With each new clean result the thought of a potential regrowth became almost unthinkable." Jim was ready to move forward with life and was engaged to his future wife, Colleen.
That year, Jim and Colleen were devastated to learn that the cancer had returned. The tumor had progressed to a stage IV glioblastoma, for which Jim needed a rigorous chemotherapy regimen. A stroke in the ICU after surgery made recovery difficult and he was left with some residual cognitive deficits and physical weakness.
Today, Jim has completed chemo and his regular MRIs are clean. The 10-year cancer survivor likes to hike with his wife and dog, and he continues to live his life surrounded by family.
For Jim Heath, having faith in your doctors and support from your family is key to a successful cancer battle. "I have undergone each stage of my battle with this trust and reliance," he says, "and by taking one step at a time, always believing that I would pull through."
Learn more about brain tumors in our cancer types and topics, or visit the Brain, Spine, and Skull Base Cancer Program webpages.