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As many of the CMBAA family knows, Travis Cook (Tuba ’11, Brother of Hunter Cook, Trombone/Drum Major ’12) was diagnosed with Anaplastic Ependymoma. We would like to dedicate the Summer 2017 Alumni Update to Travis.
Ependymoma is a rare tumor of the brain or spinal cord. It is a primary tumor, which means that it starts in either the brain or spine, both are parts of the central nervous system (CNS). Travis’ tumor is near the brain stem, which causes difficulty, because it controls breathing, walking, seeing, and much more.
The cause of Ependymoma is not known. Symptoms may include headaches, feeling sick and vomiting, personality changes, and vision and balance problems. Travis has headaches, and if they get severe, it could mean surgery to relieve the pressure. He has lost his left field of vision, which can cause balance issues.
The main treatments are surgery and radiotherapy. Chemotherapy is sometimes used if the tumor comes back. Thus far, Travis has had six brain surgeries, four rounds of chemotherapy, five rounds of radiation, and one round of immunotherapy. He just completed a daily hour-long whole brain radiation and is going through seven stereotactic radiation sessions.
Ependymomas can occur in both children and adults. It is the third most common pediatric tumor, but only accounts for 2% of brain cancer in the adult population. Approximately 1,340 people per year are diagnosed with Ependymoma in the United States.
Travis is a hero (as you all know). With everything he is currently facing, he wears a smile every day and creates a fun work environment. He has done a surprise sing-a-long for the PM in his scrum meeting, loves video games (especially Nintendo), and he has been caught sporting a Pikachu hat in the office. He does get tough on himself from time to time. When he was out for surgery, he told his team at work that he felt he had let them down by being out. We could honestly all learn a bit from Travis, because he maintains such a positive attitude – his colleagues say he’s always in a good mood. He has been through a lot, but he is thankful for his friends and family who have helped him get through it. Travis recently shared encouraging words with the Collaborative Ependymoma Research Network (CERN) Foundation, saying, “You are not alone. There have been many times I really needed to hear this. So here I am, saying it to you.”
How you can help – Travis has a website where he tells his story and raises money for the CERN Foundation. Thus far, he has far surpassed his goal of $1,010 (October 10, 2013 was the date of his first surgery), and raised nearly $8,000 dollars. In response to the donations, he said, “I am just without words. I love all my coworkers. Their kindness has amazed me on countless occasions and there are people who are not even on my team that have contributed and sent me emails of support. My friends across the country also contributed to my fundraising efforts and have supported me with cards, calls, and messages. Of course, I have to thank my family, immediate and extended, who support me financially, emotionally, and in so many priceless ways.” I hope that you will join us in continuing to support Travis!
We thank Travis for sharing his story and admire his strength and courage in becoming an advocate for those battling Ependymoma. Travis, your CMBAA family sends you all our love and support.