By LACEY WHELAN
FORT HALL — Tribal Member Jammie Waterhouse has been fighting a very tough battle for the last few months as she was diagnosed with glioblastoma grade 4-brain tumor.
The specific type of tumor is very rare and fewer than 200,000 cases are diagnosed in the United States per year. As of now, she chose to treat the cancer with radiation and chemotherapy.
Waterhouse says it all started when she was working as a dispatcher for the Fort Hall Police Department. She had been having headaches for a long time, and she thought they were just sinus infection headaches. She mentioned it to her mom and she in turn told her that she should go to the doctor because it may be something serious.
At first she didn’t think it was too serious so she decided to just go to the urgent care clinic in Chubbuck. The physician there told her if you think you have a sinus infection then he would prescribe her some Amoxicillin as she has had sinus infection like symptoms before, and she thought this was something that she had this time. He prescribed her Toradol (for migraines) and Amoxicillin and sent her on her way. She said the physician only checked her blood pressure, and nothing else.
She said at first the Toradol helped with the headaches, but when she returned to work to go to a meeting, her headache had returned. She let her boss know and that she may not be able to make her shift for work. Her boss responded by saying because they were short handed at work, they still wanted to have her report to work. She realized at this time, her left eye had started to feel fuzzy and the pain from the headache had started to return. She was concerned with it all and felt the best thing was to go to the emergency room.
When she arrived at Portneuf Medical Center emergency room, after waiting 45 minutes, they gave her stronger medication to help with pain, and then took her in for CT scan and a MRI. After doing so, the doctor came in and she asked is it bad? He answered with it ain’t good. She was immediately concerned and he told her you have a small orange sized tumor in your brain. She was shocked and because the tumor was intertwined into her brain it had affected her right side, which affected her decision-making and also the response side of her brain, so she said at first it didn’t sink in. At first it didn’t register to her, and she asked what to do next.
The doctor advised the tumor needed to be taken out or it will kill you. Because she was immediately overwhelmed she asked to go smoke a cigarette. They immediately admitted her at the Portneuf Medical Center and prepped her for surgery to take out the tumor. After three weeks of waiting, they told her, yes the tumor was cancerous. She felt the doctor who told her the diagnosis was very insensitive and had no compassion at all. She remembers before doing the surgery at Portneuf, she was told that she might have to go to Boise to have the surgery done.
After the first surgery at Portneuf, she wished she went to Boise to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center first because the first surgery they didn’t remove the entire tumor. At the SARMC in Boise they used a special technique that makes the tumor glow, so when they take it out, they can remove it all. Dr. Anderson then did a complete resection of the entire tumor on her, and now the tumor is gone, but she is being treated now by using chemotherapy and radiation to make the cancer cells smaller.
When she was first diagnosed, they gave her 10-12 months to live. She and her team are fighting to make her live longer. To help she has been given a “cap” with a radiation pulse on it to wear on her head for 18 hours of her day, and it is meant to extend her life longer. Statistically, only 23 percent of people survive from this type of cancer. Waterhouse tries to stay away from reading too much statistics. She is definitely going to fight it. Her treatment has been since May 9 for radiation and she will continue with chemotherapy for another month after the first round. They will test her again to see if the chemo is shrinking the cancer, before the next round. She will have to wear the “cap” for a few more months to help better her chances.
While going through her treatment Waterhouse said she has been resting and sleeping. The chemo makes her super sleepy, so she tries to get as much rest as possible. When she first started she didn’t know what to expect and she quit smoking, but she has her sister Megan there helping her through it all. She said she doesn’t know what she would do if it wasn’t for her family supporting her. Now that she is half way through her treatment, she has a routine she follows and does have to have a nap after chemo, but she does drive herself to the treatments.
One thing that has changed is she is very forgetful now. She has to constantly write things down. She doesn’t have the side effects from when she had the tumor. The tumor now only affects her short- term memory and some of her decision-making.
No one really knows what causes tumors and not many symptoms show up when you do have a tumor. She does have family that has also had cancerous issues and that maybe the genes from her family had a small part in it.
Waterhouse wants people to be aware of the symptoms they have and to not just ignore them. She was 29 years old when she was diagnosed with it and if it can happen to her, then it can happen to anyone. She said to be especially careful with the headaches or pain behind your eye. She thought she could handle it with just using Ibuprofen and then use sinus medicine. She had no health issues before all this happened. But reminds everyone to pay attention to your body.
The community has been very supportive, Waterhouse said. The Fort Hall Police Department had a fundraiser for Jammie and her medical expenses. A rummage sale is planned for June 22. Tony Saiz, Assistant Chief of Fire & EMS department and his wife arranged the fundraiser walk on June1, which went towards her medical bills, and after the walk/run the Shoshone Bannock Hotel/Casino had a luncheon for those who participated in the walk. Upcoming will be a Zumba fundraiser on July 13 and raffle tickets are being sold by Crystal Ramos. All the proceeds will help Jammie with medical expenses.
Waterhouse is trying to surround herself with family who want to be in her life, and not the ones who just say they care. She is extremely grateful to her sisters and family who have helped her along the way and to her husband Aaron Waterhouse. They’ve all been extremely supportive and helpful even on the days where her husband doesn’t know how to react when she is having a bad day. She tells him to just listen to her and that all you have to do is be there, there doesn’t always need to be a response. When she first was diagnosed there was a lot of emotion and disbelief, but he was there for her and she doesn’t know what she would do without him.
Waterhouse said prayer, being optimistic and positive throughout her whole healing part has been what has kept her going. She said she is not going to be the one to give up and die. She’s going to continue her fight and go into more prayer ceremonies to pray for not only herself but for the families that have lost their loved ones, and also for the missing people and our community.
She said the love and support from the community has been keeping her going. She doesn’t want to feel sorry for herself and doesn’t want to just give up. She strives to still be her same self, everyday and to keep fighting.