In January 2020, Jason Meyers was in his office on a conference call with his CentiMark Corporation colleagues when he suddenly lost the ability to speak. It lasted just 30 seconds, but he instantly knew he was in trouble.
“It hit me out of the blue,” says Jason. “I didn’t know what was happening, but I didn’t waste any time.”
The 52-year-old left the meeting and drove to nearby UPMC Williamsport. He walked into the Emergency Department and was quickly moved into an exam room. Minutes later, he was fighting for his life after experiencing a grand mal seizure.
A Frightening Diagnosis
Jason has no memory of the heroic actions taken to save his life over the next four days. Emergency department doctors and nurses jumped into action to stabilize him, then placed him on a ventilator, in a medically induced coma.
An MRI revealed a large mass behind Jason’s eye, in the left temporal parietal region of the brain — an area responsible for speech and memory. “At least one-quarter of his brain had critical swelling,” Dr. Rajjoub says.
Two days later, Dr. Rajjoub performed a craniotomy in a delicate 4-hour surgery to remove the brain tumor. Testing confirmed Jason had glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) — a very aggressive primary cancer of the brain. Unlike other cancers, GBM does not spread to other organs. Instead, it stays in the brain, growing quickly and invading surrounding tissues.
The surgery saved his life. But without additional treatment, Jason — a husband and father of two teenage boys — had about 30 days to live.
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‘We Are Partners’
When he woke up the day after surgery, Jason was alert and coherent. “From now on, we are partners,” he told Dr. Rajjoub, as they discussed treatment options along with Jason’s wife, Jessica.
“I was in the fight of my life, but I was never going to give up,” says Jason. “I had complete trust in my doctors at UPMC. I consider them teammates; I knew they were in the fight with me.”
“The goal of surgery was to remove as much of the tumor as possible without damaging vital areas of the brain,” says Dr. Rajjoub. Since most of the tumor had been removed, Jason immediately felt better. But the aggressive cancer almost always recurs. Jason needed additional treatment, including radiation and chemotherapy.
Dr. Rajjoub referred Jason to medical oncologist Abdalla Sholi, MD, to manage the next phase of his treatment. Jason was still hospitalized when Dr. Sholi, regional medical director of oncology, UPMC Hillman Cancer Centers in north central Pennsylvania, intervened.
“From day one, Jason said he was going to beat this. He’s very determined and very focused,” says Dr. Sholi. “I’ve never met anyone like him.”
A Growing Team
Jason quickly returned to work at CentiMark Corporation, even while continuing treatment.
Under Dr. Sholi’s care, he completed a 6-week course of radiation and oral chemotherapy at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Williamsport. But two months later, Jason underwent another MRI after experiencing numbness and confusion. The tumor was growing again, which can happen even with the most aggressive treatments.
Jason consulted outside neurosurgeons who confirmed Dr. Sholi’s opinion that he needed additional surgery. He traveled to Pittsburgh to have the resection performed by neurosurgeon Georgios Zenonos, MD. “Jason is a fighter — a very energetic man who will not be put down by any disease,” says Dr. Zenonos.
Jason returned home to Williamsport, where he soon returned to work — and doubled down on his personal efforts to beat cancer. When his doctors expressed concern over his weight, blood pressure, and sugar levels, he lost 80 pounds, got his blood pressure down to 89/59, and saw his blood sugar drop to normal levels.
“I was never going to give up,” says Jason. “That’s who I am.”
A Grateful Patient
Fifteen months after his initial diagnosis, Jason shows no signs of cancer. He takes an oral chemotherapy pill every 42 days, has follow-up MRIs every 2 to 3 months, and sees Dr. Sholi every 4 to 6 weeks.
“He’s doing fantastic,” says Dr. Sholi. “He is functioning at 100%.” He and Dr. Rajjoub credit Jason’s positive attitude and determination for his success.
But Jason credits the expert care he received from the moment he walked into UPMC Williamsport. He even had UPMC permanently tattooed on his chest to show his gratitude.
“It was a miracle in Williamsport — a small town in the middle of nowhere — to have Dr. Rajjoub. He’s an incredible surgeon and he saved my life with the initial surgery,” says Jason.
“The seizure almost killed me, the cancer in my brain almost killed me. But everyone at UPMC worked together to save my life. They’re all part of my team and a part of the miracle. And I’m forever grateful.”
To learn more about UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and UPMC’s neurosurgery services in north central Pennsylvania, visit Hillman.UPMC.com and UPMC.com/NeuroNCPA.
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UPMC Hillman Cancer Center provides world-class cancer care, from diagnosis to treatment, to help you in your cancer battle. We are the only comprehensive cancer center in our region, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. We have more than 70 locations throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, and Maryland, with more than 200 oncologists. Our internationally renowned research team is striving to find new advances in prevention, detection, and treatment.