I’m still alive after 18 years… The experience of a former brain cancer patient
David Witting was diagnosed with brain cancer when he was young, and doctors confirmed that he will not live more than a few weeks, but he is still alive 18 years after he was diagnosed with the disease.
In a report published by the magazineNEWSWEEKAmerican news week, Fitting talked about his experience, saying that his mother had colon cancer when he was young, and his grandmother and mother also contracted it, as the family carries a genetic genetic mutation known as “Lynch syndrome” that increases the risk of cancer.
The writer explains that the mutation experienced by the family was only discovered when he was diagnosed with cancer in his childhood, which was surprising to everyone because he was an active child practicing skiing, football and wrestling.
In April 2003, when he was ten years old, he started having severe headaches, and the family thought he was suffering from a migraine or an allergy to some cleaning materials, as they moved from house to house.
Witting used to visit the pediatrician 3 times a week because of headaches that were causing him nausea and vomiting, and cases of “delusion of vision” or what is known as the phenomenon of “deja vu”, meaning that he saw something and had the illusion that he had seen it before.
On May 6, 2003, Witting had a CT scan that revealed a cancerous brain tumor. Doctors at Palms West Hospital in Florida confirmed that diagnosis, and explained that the deja vu cases were actually epileptic fits due to the tumor.
The author adds that given his young age and the presence of a tumor in the right temporal lobe, the doctors wanted to examine his potential for cognitive problems or physical disabilities when performing surgery to remove the tumor.
Therefore, the doctors conducted a test for him to determine the side that controls the function of language and memory in his brain, and they found that he uses both sides of the brain with the same efficiency, which means that in the event of any damage to the right side of his brain, the left side will be able to acquire those skills.
The surgeon who performed the operation says Witting’s surgery was the easiest brain surgery he had ever had, because the tumor was completely encapsulated and surrounded by tissue. The tumor was immediately sent to the Department of Pathology, and the final report revealed that it was a high-risk brain cancer called “glioblastoma multiforme” and was grade IV.
Doctors told his mother at the time that based on the previous cases, her son was expected to live no more than 16 weeks to 9 months at the latest. Fitting immediately underwent a postoperative protocol, which was chemotherapy followed by 36 radiotherapy sessions.
Witting adds that he relapsed a year after the first diagnosis, only to discover that the tumor had reappeared even before he had an MRI, because he started having bouts of ‘deja vu’ again.
On May 19, 2004, he had a second surgery at Miami Children’s Hospital to remove another brain tumor from the right temporal lobe. This tumor was completely encapsulated like the first, and he was discharged less than 48 hours later.
Doctors estimated that he would live no more than a few weeks, and told his mother there was nothing else they could do, because they tried the postoperative protocol the first time and it didn’t work.
Witting’s mother later contacted Duke University in North Carolina, and got a consultation with pediatric neuro-oncologist Dr. Sridaran Gororangan. His mother agreed that he would undergo an experimental protocol involving a combination of chemotherapy that had not previously been used to treat brain cancer, and he had been receiving intravenous chemotherapy once a week for two years.
Fitting confirms that he is very grateful to his mother because she was always optimistic and did not reveal to him the negative expectations of doctors until he reached his twenties, adding that he found the briefing and support of many other people around him, which helped him a lot to overcome his ordeal.
During his treatment, he recalls, he met a boy named Stephen, who had been in a wheelchair since he was two years old after his legs were amputated.
Stephen was suffering from a rare disease that made his body suffer from several tumors, and he also lost his mother and sister in a car accident when he was one year old, but “this child was the most optimistic person on earth. He made us laugh and did not complain about his situation. When he died at the age of 14, He was an amputee and had one arm, but he was very positive. He was a wonderful person, and I would say that if he had that spirit in spite of all his suffering, I had no excuse.”
In September 2006 Witting finished his treatment and an MRI in October revealed he was fine and could continue to live largely normally.
Witting finished high school and college, found a job in sales, and moved to Delray Beach, Florida.
In early 2019, Witting began suffering from pain in his jaw, and he believed it was caused by the surgeries he underwent as a child, but an MRI showed a tumor the size of a baseball, and it was discovered that he had “osteosarcoma”, a type of bone cancer.
He underwent a treatment that included 16 chemical injections to shrink the tumor so that doctors could remove it without risk. On February 12, 2020, surgeons excised the tumor, removing part of the lower jaw and replacing it with bone from the left fibula, surrounding muscle, and a metal plate.
Immediately after that surgery, Witting developed a rapidly expanding hematoma, which caused external bleeding that led to the disintegration of the stitches, and he had to undergo emergency surgery to get rid of the tumor.
Witting says that since then he has been routinely undergoing examinations and MRIs, and he has been completely cured of cancer, and the only thing he is suffering from is that the left side of his face is completely paralyzed.
A while ago, Witting received a call from the surgeon who treated him at the age of 11, who told him that he was one of the children with cancer who lived the longest after illness in the United States.
Witting says that his experiences with cancer have made him realize the importance of being positive and optimistic to overcome trouble, and he advises all people to be optimistic, enjoy life and stay as long as possible with the people who make them happy.