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Personal Stories

Hear stories of impact and hope from some of the men and women impacted by brain disease every day, and spread awareness by sharing how brain disease has impacted your life.

 

Meet Ethan H.

When his father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Ethan Henderson took on a caretaker role. He couldn’t have known that he would be diagnosed with the same disease eight years later. Ethan’s experience as both a caretaker and patient makes him a passionate advocate for increasing awareness about Parkinson’s and reducing disparities in diagnosis and care.

Meet Ruth H.

“I’m still the same me, but my body does not allow me to do the things that it once did.” 

After years of playing in an orchestra, Ruth Hochheiser noticed something wasn’t right: She could no longer stand for long periods of time. Four years and countless doctor visits later, she was finally diagnosed with orthostatic tremor (OT), a rare movement disorder. A patient advocate and community member, Ruth knows firsthand that more research is crucial to effectively identify, diagnose, and treat OT.

Meet Julie T.

After being misdiagnosed with multiple other brain diseases, including MS and fibromyalgia, Julie Turner learned she had cerebral small vessel disease (CSVD). Julie had grappled with memory and cognitive issues for years prior, and her condition progressively worsened, affecting her motor skills and speech. Today, Julie is relearning how to read, write, and talk so she can communicate with her loved ones and tell her story.

Meet Courtney F.

Courtney Fraser has lived with epilepsy, memory problems, and mental health issues like anxiety and depression since experiencing a traumatic brain injury (TBI) at 4 years old. She was rushed to the hospital immediately after her accident, but due to a lack of awareness around TBI and the signs and symptoms of epilepsy it would take 11 years to receive an epilepsy diagnosis. Courtney’s story highlights the complex connections between brain diseases and underscores the importance of research and awareness. 

Meet Jeffrey C.

Jeffrey Cade’s life took a drastic turn when he was diagnosed with a rare brain disease called adult-onset leukoencephalopathy with axonal spheroids and pigmented glia (ALSP). An active soccer player and youth coach, Jeffrey was devastated by the rapid progression of his symptoms, which eventually became disabling. Still, he continues persevering and working with his sister Kim to advocate for more research into this fatal disease with no known cure.

Meet Tom S.

Tom suffers from dystonia, a painful neurological movement disorder with no known cure. When he first started experiencing strange pains and cramps in his neck muscles, he saw chiropractors and physical therapists—but when this didn’t help, Tom started down a long and painful road to an eventual diagnosis. Before his diagnosis at 30 years old, Tom was an athlete and an entrepreneur, but as his symptoms worsened, even performing everyday tasks became a challenge. Before long, the pain became debilitating. Over time, Tom learned to accept his new limitations and focus on his physical and mental health.

Meet June and Ron

A few weeks after bringing their daughter Yael home from the hospital, parents Ron and June became concerned when her physical development didn’t seem to align with typical newborn milestones. However, doctors were not familiar with her rare disease, and reaching a diagnosis took determination. After Yael, who they lovingly called Yaya, was diagnosed with 4H leukodystrophy, the two determined parents have advocated for their young daughter’s care and started a foundation in her honor.

Meet Mary Jo

When she was in her early 30’s, Mary Jo’s relationship with her parents was forever altered by brain disease. Her father suffered a subdural hematoma, was diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy, and experienced a stroke while her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia. “They’re a responsibility that I have to take care of as they have taken care of me.”

Meet Matt

Matt is a husband, father, and professional photographer. Over the past 11 years, he has had surgeries and radiation to remove five benign brain tumors. Following the third surgery, he began to experience more struggles in his daily life. “I think the biggest loss is my relationship to my family. They saw me as the dad and strong. Now they can’t count on me as much. It’s important to support people with brain disease ‘cause it can happen to anybody.’”

Meet Michele

In 2002, while her young daughter battled a fatal diagnosis of pons glioma, Michele experienced a life-threatening brain hemorrhage when a brain malformation she likely had since birth ruptured. She experienced drastic changes in the way her brain functioned, especially in regard to memory and spatial awareness. Today, Michele is still learning to adjust. “When someone’s brain is not functioning correctly it impacts everything in their life. It impacts how they think, how they feel about themselves, it’s a very hopeless space to be in as a person.”

Meet Sasha

Sasha was diagnosed with epilepsy after sustaining a soccer-related brain injury in high school. Since then, Sasha has worked to find both a treatment that controlled her seizures and a career that fulfilled her desire to care for others. “Life isn’t meant to be lived taking multiple medications and having seizures you can’t control.”

Meet Ken Jr.

Before frontotemporal lobe dementia, sometimes called Pick’s disease, Ken Keene Sr. was a respected community member and a handy man who could fix anything. For his oldest son and namesake Ken Keene Jr., there was nothing his father couldn’t do: “To my family, he was just that super dad. Then all of a sudden he’s reaching out for help.”

Meet Orlena

Orlena was driving with her young daughter in the car when she suffered a stroke because of a rare brain vessel disorder. After two brain surgeries and six months unable to care for her daughter, Orlena began to reclaim her independence and became a Moyamoya advocate.

Meet Kelly

In 2018, Kelly was diagnosed with glioblastoma after an MRI confirmed that a golf-ball-sized tumor above her right ear was affecting the left side of her body. After surgery to remove the tumor, Kelly was able to get through her darkest days with a  healthy dose of humor. Now she is an advocate for other patients living with strokes and brain tumors.

Meet Nancy

When her father was diagnosed with vascular dementia in 2005, Nancy quickly shifted into the role of his caregiver. Nancy and her sisters drew from their individual strengths to provide their father with medical assistance and emotional support until his passing in 2012. At that time, he was diagnosed again with Lewy body dementia. “No matter what your financial situation, there’s probably going to be help out there… Just don’t do it alone, because burning yourself out is not going to help anybody.”

Meet Maureen

Maureen worked as a high school English teacher until she started experiencing a confusing array of symptoms that affected her ability to work, along with her relationships with family and friends. After visiting numerous specialists for years, Maureen received a delayed diagnosis of Lewy body dementia. Now Maureen wants to raise awareness about what life is like with living with this disease. “I felt that I just wanted to offer something to this community that I hadn’t been able to find really”.

Meet Joey

For the first 32 years of his life, Joey experienced seizures from epilepsy. For several years, Joey worked hard in his career as a pipe welder and in construction until his seizures started happening more frequently and intensely. Brain surgery became Joey’s only viable option for treatment. Doctors were unsure if Joey would be able to survive after finding more brain damage than expected, but he surprised everyone by thriving during his post-surgery recovery .

Meet Ben

At age 40, Ben was perfectly healthy and active until he started noticing the early symptoms of a neurological condition that weakened his physical movements. After a 2-year search for his diagnosis of X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy, he began his journey as an advocate for others living with rare diseases. Last year, Ben joined the board of the American Brain Foundation to further his impact.

Meet Morgan

It started with a twinge. After a simple surgery and some physical therapy, Morgan wasn’t getting better. It took two more surgeries before she was diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) type II.

Meet Zoe

At 15, Zoe has been navigating her Tourette syndrome diagnosis for eight years. “I had to figure out at a young age how my emotions affect my tics, from good to awful ways. It has been frustrating to figure out on my own and learn to deal with. “This was the first moment in my life where my parents couldn’t fix something for me.