Many years ago I happened to visit a store in Cornwall, then on Pitt Street, called Celtic Treasures, where I was happy to find of course Celtic (Scottish and Irish) items and quite a few British items as well. We are talking Coronation Street clothing, Union Jack adorned items and British foods such as Melton Mowbray Pork Pies, Steak and Kidney Pies plus lots more … and behind the counter was owner, Samantha Butcher, always with a smile on her face.
Samantha always had some British treat for me to sample and we always had the greatest chats, mostly about the UK. Then the store moved to Maxville where I visited a few times but when it appeared again, this time locating to 17 1/2 Second Street West, I was sooooo happy and once again Samantha was behind the counter with a big smile always on her face, ready to chat, with treat in hand. But one day our fun chat turned serious when Samantha told me the news that she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, so because May is brain tumor awareness month, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk to Samantha about her journey over the last few years. A journey that has been very tough, a journey that would have caused many people to give up, but luckily not my stubborn, British friend Samantha … she pushed through the oh so many challenges that she has faced (and still does) and I am happy to say is back behind the counter at Celtic Treasures, still with a smile on her face and treat in hand – this past week it was a sample of “Poop Nuggets” as she called the chocolate treat that she had me sample.
So, as I said, because it is “Gray May”, Brain Tumor Awareness month (a month dedicated to supporting, empowering, and amplifying the voice of the brain tumor community. – quoted from the internet), Samantha is happy to tell her story, showing that our lives can change so fast and her advice is “if your body is telling you something, don’t ignore it! (like she almost did). The best way to tell Samantha’s story is in the form of the Seeker’s 5 Question interview. So here goes …
1. How and when did you discover that you had a brain tumor?
I found out that I had the tumor on March 9, 2019. I had had a headache for six days, and then woke up with a black eye on the 9th. My husband kept nagging at me to go the hospital, finally that evening I did. The hospital hooked me up to iv, kept me overnight, and I was off to see a neurosurgeon at the Ottawa Civic the next day. My neurosurgeon was Dr. Charles Agbi. He said it seemed to be a sub epindymoma, basically a tumor in the right lateral ventricle and there was no rush to remove it as it wasn’t life threatening, but given my age, he wanted to remove it. I asked him to hold off until after the Highland Games.
2. When you found out, how did you feel, what was your reaction?
When I first found out I was shocked and terrified, but then shortly replaced it with humor like I always do. The tumor was the size of a shelled peanut, so that’s what I named it – Peanut.
3. What tests and procedures did you have to go through?
Most of the tests that I had done were MRIs, which were done every month. The brain mapping was done in February 2020, which was the same as an MRI, just longer. They also checked the spine to make sure there were no tumors there. When they got the results back they realized it was a rare central neurocytoma, and it was life threatening, plus it was growing fast. By the time I got into surgery in August of 2020, it had split in half and wrapped around my femoral artery. So the surgery took 8 hours instead of 4 and I was in hospital for 43 days instead of a week.
4. I know that after your surgery there were many complications. Can you tell us about them?
After the surgery I was paralyzed on the left side of my body and they said I was going to be bedridden. I had aphasia (couldn’t speak). I had 3 strokes, a brain bleed and an infection that could’ve eaten my whole brain within 72 hours. I was given a 5% chance to live. They put me in a coma for 5 days so that the antibiotics could do their job. On the day I was supposed to be released, they had to rush me in for surgery cause my ventricle failed and I had hydrocephalus and they had to insert a shunt. I was supposed to have it for life, but 8 months later had it removed because the ventricle started working again.
5. It has been how many years now and how are things going with you? You are back at work but are you back to the way that you were before? What are your daily struggles? I do know that your son’s Bull Mastiff, Opie, is a great help to you.
In August it will be 3 years since the surgery, I’ve come a long way, but still have much farther to go. Acupuncture has been keeping me mobile and relieving a lot of the pain. My life is far from what it used to be, I have good days and bad days, but I try my hardest to do what I can when I can. I still have limitations and mobility issues, my head hurts everyday, but I’m fortunate to be here because I’m not supposed to be. My neurosurgeon calls me his miracle, but in my mind he is the miracle and I was just fortunate enough to have him as my doctor. He is 1 of 2 doctors in Canada who could have done that surgery – How lucky is am I?
Samantha owns Celtic Treasures as I mentioned at the beginning of my story and the store is located at 17 1/2 Second Street East. Current hours are a bit limited as Samantha is still in the healing process so the store is only open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 10 am to 2 pm. Call 613-933-0555, Email: [email protected] and visit their Facebook page BUT on days that she is open make it a point to stop in and visit with Samantha, my feisty and always smiling friend behind the counter – a true inspiration in my opinion. Just make sure you have some time to spare as there is a lot to see in this “Small Scottish and Irish Shoppe in downtown Cornwall”, with a British section too!
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