Participant Profile: Michele Blum
In honor of National Brain Tumor Awareness Month, we would like to introduce Michele Blum, a seven-year glioblastoma survivor and a participant in the Brain Tumor Networking Group and other programs provided by CscVvsb. Thank you for sharing your story, Michele!
Seven years ago, Michele Blum was expecting her first child, excited about becoming a parent, and looking forward to continuing her teaching career after her maternity leave. Everything changed when Michele was diagnosed with a glioblastoma (an aggressive and highly malignant type of brain tumor). Instead of enjoying her last few months of pregnancy, Michele had to undergo emergency brain surgery followed by grueling radiation treatments. The baby was delivered more than a month early so Michele could begin chemotherapy. “Since then, it has felt like a glass has shattered into a thousand pieces and we are still trying to put all those pieces back together,” says Michele.
Fortunately, Michele’s daughter Brianna did very well and is now a healthy and active seven-year-old. In the years since Michele’s diagnosis, the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara has helped Michele manage the anxiety, stress, and physical symptoms arising from the glioblastoma and its treatment.
The Relaxation and Guided Imagery program facilitated by Paula Getty-Shearer at CscVvsb gave Michele the tools she needed to manage her anxiety. “Paula is unbelievably sensational,” says Michele. “To this day I would recommend her to anyone.”
Another program that helped Michele was an educational seminar on oral health and cancer. Michele had been getting a lot of cavities and had no idea why. The upcoming seminar caught her eye and she decided to check it out. “I basically left the seminar jumping for joy,” she recalls. “I learned that you need a team of doctors because there are so many different aspects before, during, and after your treatment. People don’t really know that until someone tells them.”
The Brain Tumor Networking Group is another CscVvsb program that Michele attends regularly. “It’s so good for me. It makes me feel like I’m not alone, like there are other people who I can relate to,” says Michele.
Michele went through another challenge that many women in treatment can relate to: hair loss. “That was extremely difficult for me,” she says. “My hair was what identified me. It was very bright, long, curly hair.” When Michele was initially diagnosed, her friends and family all said they would shave their heads in solidarity. As grateful as Michele was, it did not make losing her hair easier. The brain surgery had left a dent in her head, which showed up once her hair was gone, making Michele not even want to see herself in the mirror. “As time went on I was able to grasp that it was just hair. My hair slowly grew back, but in certain areas it would never grow back.” Last year, Michele decided to supplement with hair extensions. “It has been a big challenge and very expensive, but it makes me feel like more of who I was,” she says.
Although it’s been a rough road since the diagnosis that changed everything seven years ago, Michele has never stopped working to overcome her health challenges, and chooses to focus on the positives in her life. Through her immense inner strength, her family, the Cancer Support Community, and her doctors, Michele has formed her own support system to help her make the most out of life.