Living With Brain Cancer

First published December 1, 2011 –

John Morton passed away in March 2011. The aggressive form of brain cancer he had, Glioblastoma Multiform, wouldn’t disappear despite his equally aggressive treatment.


It’s difficult to see a healthy, active man raising three teenagers, chopping wood, and climbing over helicopters daily for his job, quickly turn into a different person. Essentially put on house arrest due to his symptoms, John couldn’t drive or go to work. He spent his days restless at home.  A common side effect of chemo is weight gain, and a side effect of bed rest is loss of muscle. Coupled together, John went from a fit 155 lbs. to a struggling 230 lbs.

His initial diagnosis came in the summer of 2010 and by the start of winter, his wife Deb found herself on the side of the highway one night; her car broken down. Their only other vehicle was John’s lifted pick-up truck, which Deb was forced to drive. As if cancer didn’t bring enough stress itself, the Morton’s lost one car and now had to rely on an impractical truck; not only for Deb in her daily commute, but in helping a weakening John get in to and out of, and to and from doctors appointments.

Knowing of the Morton’s desperate need for a better vehicle, one of John’s coworkers generously acquired a van and a wheelchair, and another organized a white elephant party where John and Deb just so happened to end up with the gift containing the key.

Living with the cancer was hard for John, it robbed of him of his activity – that which defined him. As his primary caregiver, Deb struggled with keeping him safe at home, and allowing the doctors to give permission for him to return to work. Hope, which John gained when he returned to work, is often a powerful healing tool for those who have cancer. Knowing this, Deb wanted John to get out and be happy, thinking maybe it’d help his outcome.

During John’s short time living with cancer, Deb found herself surrounded by support from old friends and new. As she says, sometimes it feels like that support has waned since John’s passing, but she has realized it’s still there if she ever needs it again. Going through the fight with John brought weak moments for both of them; however, despite the weakness, there is now a strength building as a result of the past year’s support.