Tom O'Donnell

In Honor of Tom O'Donnell, Survivor

My Name is Tom O'Donnell, and in June of 2009, I was diagnosed with a "mass" on the front right side of my brain.

I had very little in the way of symptoms, an occasional eye twitch was it. On 7/8/09, Dr. Alan Friedman and his team removed 60% of a slow growing cancerous tumor. I would later learn that it was an Oligodendroglioma, grade II. I have not had to under go any treatments, and I returned to work full time in September. I will have several scans for the next several years; I am currently having them every two months. My most recent was on 1/4/10, and it was good.

My experience has really been unbelievable. I went into my surgery believing that I could and would affect the out come. I believe that I did just that. When I received the call to let me know the date that my surgery was scheduled, I asked what I would need to bring with me. I was told a bath robe, slippers and toiletries. I said that I thought I would need to bring a little more than just that. What I brought with me was my faith and attitude. As they prep you for the OR and remove everything that is not part of your person, your faith and attitude cannot be touched. There is no pre op test that can determine how strong they really are. It is only when they are tested that we realize just how strong they are. You see I believe: "Everything is 100% possible with the right attitude." I not only wanted to affect the outcome, I wanted to affect those individuals that had anything to do with my care while I was in the hospital.

On 12/22/09, when I returned for a social visit and got to visit with the nurses on 4200, I realized that I had not only affected them, but they had also affected me. This was a very special visit, and one that I will never forget. I began running two weeks after I got home from the hospital. When I asked if I could run, I was told, no more than a mile, and not by myself. I have yet to run just a mile. I find that running is a great way to share my story with others. I ran in a 5k in August with the Carolina Hurricanes, and did another one in December; my time had improved by over 2 min, but it is about much more than time for me. On March 21, 2010, I will be running my first marathon, The Duke Medicine Tobacco Road Marathon. This may be the first marathon that Duke has ever sponsored, and I may be the only current patient who will be running in this event.

You see, six months ago this was a dream, and seven months ago it was not even that. I run because I am able to. I run because I was facing the possibility of loosing the use of the left side of my body. I run for all of the survivors that are unable to. I run to give others HOPE. How could I not run? At Duke I found HOPE and with God's help I continue to share this HOPE with others each and every day. To me Hope is having won the race before it even starts.

Your journey is what you make it, and you can find joy in your journey. You cannot control what happens to you, only how you choose to react to what happens. My journey has been awesome. I have an unbelievable TEAM at Duke Hospital and BTC that make it possible for me to not only dream, but see my dreams become a reality. Everything happens for a reason. I thank God every day for allowing me to share my experience with others and in some small way offer hope. We never realize the impact that we can make on others. Modern medicine can only take you so far, you have to be prepared to go the rest of the way. My journey continues. However, my plan is to live the rest of my life.

Should you care to learn more about my journey, you can visit the following site:, and enter TOMODONNELL for the website and my story comes up. Becoming a survivor is one of my proudest achievements. While I cannot explain why, and I am not trying to, but from the very beginning I felt like my story and experience was something that I was meant to share with others and I thank you for allowing me to do that. My team entry for the 2010 Angels Among Us: “101% POSSIBLE.” God Bless.

Tom O’Donnell


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