Greg Sousa has a brain tumor. I can’t pronounce the name of it, but if you ask him, he will gladly show you exactly where it is and where the surgeon cut his skull open to remove as much of it as he could.
While Sousa is matter-of-fact about his condition, a “slow killer” that he intends to prove wrong with “decades of healthy living” in his future, he is not without emotion. We met for coffee last week because he knew about my mother’s fight with brain cancer and he wanted to reach out to me, to share our stories, a patient and a caregiver comparing notes.
He said we also “shared a date” of sorts. A little more than 72 hours after my mother died, her surgeon was operating on Sousa at Duke, trying to remove his tumor.
Sousa was quick to tell me that it was easier to be a patient than a caregiver because while he carried the heavy burden of the cancer, his wife carried everything but the cancer - his care, the children, the house, her job - the business of life that continues even when cancer comes knocking at your door.
Sousa shared with me that when he was first diagnosed in June 2012, he was “sad” and needed to find a way to “climb out of the gutter” of his despair. So just weeks after brain surgery, he started exercising again. Prior to his diagnosis, the 44-year-old was an avid swimmer, biker and runner who had competed in triathlons all over the country since the early 1990’s. Returning to these activities added some desperately needed normalcy back into his life.
Now, Sousa wants to use his athletic talent to create awareness for what many people consider a “small cancer” that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. While it is a small cancer, it is a cancer that brings patients to their knees very quickly and usually has a very grim prognosis.
So, just weeks after finishing a year-long stint with chemotherapy, Sousa is planning to ride 900 miles on his bike from North Carolina through Florida to raise money for research at Duke’s Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center where he is being treated.
But that’s not all. Sousa has made it his mission in life to bring the gifts and inspiration he has received in from others “full circle.” He tells me it is hard to remember just who and how many people have inspired him before and after he got cancer, but in return, he vows to inspire others. He was connected with another Duke patient who has a brain tumor, a 24-year-old woman who he accompanies to all of her medical appointments to lend support. If that’s not inspirational, I don’t know what is.
Thank you Greg Sousa for inspiring me…
(Greg leaves on his bike ride on Tuesday, Sept. 24. To learn more about his efforts go to his website: badousabrain.com).
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.