Although many lives are lost every day from one sort of cancer or another, sometimes, with the right help at the right time, cancer can be beaten. Lori Meuchel is living proof. She’s a brain cancer survivor. Her doctors don’t talk about “remission.” The term they use is “cancer free.”
Meuchel’s doctors estimated that the cancer they discovered in her brain six years ago had probably been growing there for three to five years. She remained unaware of the insidious development, however, until one day when it suddenly became apparent to one astute and perceptive observer.
She said her story started at work one day when one of the church elders, Steve Jarvis, asked her a question. She had a headache that day, she said, and the aspirin she took didn’t seem to be helping much, when Jarvis asked her a question.
“I was having trouble answering him,” she said. She estimated that after something like a 30 second delay, he simply asked her if he might take her to the hospital.
“I said ‘OK, can I get my purse?’ He took me to the emergency room at Marcus Daly Hospital. I signed the consent forms and went into seizures right there,” said Meuchel. Dr. Urso and Dr. Atkins were working in the ER that day.
“I was not conscious, but if it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where I would be today,” said Meuchel. She said they sent her down for a CAT scan and saw a mass on her brain. They had her Lifeflighted to St. Patrick’s Hospital in Missoula where she could get an MRI. A brain tumor was identified. She said her brain surgeon came in and said, “You came to the right place.”
Once the seizures were treated and subsided, she went home to rest and four days later had brain surgery. A golf ball sized tumor was removed from her brain and two or three days after that she walked out of the hospital.
A follow-up MRI revealed, however, that some residual tumor remained. She was sent to the Mayo Clinic for further analysis and the doctors there decided to try to treat the residual cancer with chemotherapy. The chemo treatment lasted for six months.
Meuchel says that she is very thankful for the treatment she got at Marcus Daly. “If it wasn’t for Doctors Urso and Atkins pushing me to St. Pat’s, I don’t know where I would be today.” She was unconscious at the time, she said, but they took care of her.
Meuchel was eventually declared to be cancer free and she’s got pictures of her brain to prove it. But she still goes in every year for another look and it always leaves her holding her breath until the results come in.
Last year Meuchel participated in the 5K Survivor’s Walk as part of the Colors of Cancer campaign. A Gray Team, supporting brain cancer patients, was added to the list of teams representing different kinds of cancer. As part of that, she placed her gray handprint on one of the cancer Survivor’s Quilts that is being auctioned off this year to raise funds for the Daly Foundation’s cancer treatment fund.
Meuchel doesn’t give herself much credit for surviving brain cancer. She gives the credit to others, like Dr. Urso and Dr. Atkins, and most of all to God. Meuchel shared her story last week at Nap’s Grill, which is supporting the Gray Team this year in the Colors of Cancer campaign.
Owner Tyler Gilder chose to sponsor the Gray Team this year for his own personal reasons. The wife of a close friend of his in California who he grew up with was recently diagnosed with brain cancer.
“I thought that supporting the Gray Team would be a great cause to get behind and show him some support from Montana,” said Gilder. He said that he didn’t want to ask his friend any details about what he and his wife were going through, but he was aching to know what the procedures might be like, what chemo treatment was like and other things.
“I really wanted to know something about what it might be like for my friend,” he said. Meuchel was glad to fill him in.
Nap’s Grill will be holding a Pint Night every Saturday during October offering beers, along with Italian, Bratwurst, and Polish sausages, with the proceeds going to support the Gray Team.
Although Meuchel is certainly glad to help out and even placed her gray handprint on a Survivor’s Quilt she is actually a member of the Lavender Team which supports all cancers.
“In my lifetime,” she said, “all my family members have had cancer of one kind or another. I figured I would get it. All four of my grandparents had it. I have cousins, aunts and uncles who all have had it, all different kinds.”
Meuchel said that she wants everyone to know that cancer can be survived.
“I believe you can win the battle,” she said. She said it was a good feeling.
“Now everything that comes up in my life, like divorce and losing a job, I say well, it’s not a brain tumor.”