Beaumont man defies odds to celebrate life

Beaumont resident Joe Spaziani was once told he only had 12-14 months due to an aggressive brain tumour, but has since more than doubled his life expectancy. He attributes his faith, family and friends for helping him get through the ordeal. Above, Spaziani enjoys a moment at home with his daughter Lucia. Behind him is a photo of a different Spaziani from his wedding day - the disease has caused him to lose more than 100 pounds. (Omar Mosleh/La Nouvelle Beaumont News)

Beaumont resident Joe Spaziani was once told he only had 12-14 months due to an aggressive brain tumour, but has since more than doubled his life expectancy. Above, Spaziani enjoys a moment at home with his daughter Lucia. Behind him is a photo of a different Spaziani from his wedding day – the disease has caused him to lose more than 100 pounds. (Omar Mosleh/La Nouvelle Beaumont News)

When Beaumont resident Joe Spaziani was first diagnosed with brain cancer on Dec. 11, 2011, the doctor told his wife there was a good chance he would not make it through treatment.

They later revised their prognosis to say he had roughly 12-14 months to live.
In March, Spaziani celebrated his third birthday with brain cancer.
Spaziani suffers from a condition called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which is a rare, aggressive brain tumour. The average life expectancy for those diagnosed with GBM is about one year, and four months without treatment.
Miraculously, Spaziani has managed to live with the disease for three years and currently has three brain tumours, which are set deep in the brain and inoperable. He strongly believes his acceptance of the disease has helped how he has fared.
“I’ve always governed my life through my three Fs — my faith, my family and my friends,” he said. “And that day I was diagnosed, I decided I’m just going to have to rely on those things again, and none of them have let me down, yet.”
But of course, Spaziani acknowledges there’s more to the story than that. Temozolomide, a chemotherapy drug, has been the most effective treatment option for him. The drug is fairly new considering it only saw international use in the early 2000s.
That’s why Spaziani is participating in the 2014 Spring Sprint, held by the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada. All proceeds from the race go toward brain tumour research.
Spaziani is hoping his story will inspire others to contribute to the cause and join the Spring Sprint, which takes place on May 31 in Edmonton.
“With every person that participates and every dollar that is raised the hope is that one day there will be an even better solution to this problem,” he said.
He also wants to show any other Beaumont residents battling brain cancer, or any kind of cancer, that there’s always hope.
“There could be someone in Beaumont who’s new to experiencing this,” he said. “For us, it was a while until we got information on things like support groups. And that helped me immensely.”
The couple has come a long way since Spaziani was first diagnosed three years ago. Amazingly, they are able to joke about the disease and say it’s a coping mechanism for them.
Spaziani lost more than 100 pounds from chemotherapy treatments and sometimes jokes with his friends that he wouldn’t recommend it as a weight-loss program.
You could say he doesn’t let the disease get to his head.
“Since day one we’ve joked about it,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean they have forgotten the difficult moments. Spaziani considers himself a pretty laid-back guy and said he did not react to the initial diagnosis in a way most people would.
The same cannot be said for his wife Corrina.
“For me, it was like someone just flipped me upside down and asked me to run home,” she said. “My world was totally turned upside down.”
For Spaziani, the biggest challenge was coming to terms with how his disease would affect his family.
“The hardest part for me was when I couldn’t lift my girls,” he said.
“But then on the flip side, when I did lift them again for the first time, the look on their face … it was like it was almost worth it.”
The family had to make many adjustments. As Spaziani suffered significant weight and muscle loss, mobility became an issue. His brother-in-law had to come over every night and help him up the stairs to bed.
Spaziani had to depend on family to drive him to the hospital and other places. It also didn’t help that their kids were aged two and three when Spaziani was diagnosed.
“The first year was pretty much total hell,” Corrina said. “You’re needed here and you’re needed there, you’re trying to find that balance, trying to find enough money for everything to work … It can be very overwhelming.”
The family is extremely grateful to their friends and family, who helped them out financially by holding a fundraiser for Spaziani.
The steroids Spaziani had to initially take led to him becoming diabetic and the chemotherapy he is currently under causes frequent fatigue.
Like any married couple, Spaziani and Corrina sometimes butt heads over matters such as house chores, especially because of Spaziani’s reduced ability to lend a hand.
But the situation has also brought them closer together in other ways.
“I’m a bit of a realist and I know one day this brain cancer probably will take Joe’s life,” Corrina said.
“And you realize that no, I’m not ready to let you go. And I’m going to appreciate every day with you.”
Spaziani is asking Beaumont residents to lend their support to help him and others who suffer from brain tumours. You can donate to ‘Team Big Joe’ at www.SpringSprint.ca or register to walk for free.
Last year, Spaziani cut the ribbon but didn’t have the most impressive finish time because he was still sore.
He’s hoping for better results this time around.
“I was the first to start and very last to finish, so I’m just hoping to improve on my time from last year.”
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