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The Faces of Brain Cancer

Three survivors of brain cancer similar to that affecting Sen. Edward Kennedy tell how they're coping.

Jim Owens continued...

To help others, he blogs and posts info on his own web site, Jim's Journey.

This spring is especially sweet because of his latest MRI results, Jim says. "I've had two MRIs in a row and we have heard the word 'reduction,'" he says, meaning the tumor is shrinking again. "We haven't heard that word since 2003. I'm so thrilled and so happy."

To Kennedy, he would say: "Have hope. You are going to have a lot of statistics thrown at you. Don't listen to the worst-case scenario. Look at all your options, including new drugs. The biggest thing is to really have hope."

Maria Hartmann

Maria Hartmann, 59, Miami, Fla. Diagnosed in 1998 with malignant glioma.

"I was at my house, with my mother-in-law, and the World Series was on. My husband was at the game."

The seizure hit."I was convinced I was epileptic," Maria says. The battery of tests run on her once she was rushed to the hospital suggested otherwise. The doctor told her she had a glioblastoma.

The surgeon at the University of Miami removed what he could and inserted a thin wafer to deliver chemotherapy.

"After that came conventional chemo and radiation twice a day," Maria says. "I was 49."

"I told myself, either I live or I die. I knew I was not going to die. I had a lot of faith. I am very strong. I said, 'I am not going to let this get me.'"

Part of that strength, she says, comes from her immigrant parents. "I was born in Cuba, and I came with my parents as a political refugee. It took a lot of guts for my family to leave everything and come here. I say, for my sister and myself, that was our first lesson in courage. My parents were very strong; I never heard any complaints in our house. They gave us strength."

At the same time as she was fighting her brain cancer, her brother-in-law was fighting stomach cancer. "My sister kept saying, 'I cannot lose my sister and my husband at the same time.' My surgery was in January 1998. I went with him to all his chemo and radiation. He died in May 1998."

When Maria's 25th wedding anniversary came around, she was still in chemo. She told her husband where she wanted to go -- Lourdes, a Christian pilgrimage destination. Her son, now 30,and daughter, now 28, went along.

"It's a place of inspiration," she says. "Everyone is looking for a cure.The waters are cold. There is nothing in the water, it is just our faith. There is a big tank of water where you submerge. I couldn't go in beyond my knees. '''

"I only wanted strength -- strength to endure whatever I had to endure."She has had good news. "It's been five years or more that the MRI came back with no change."

"I would tell Sen. Kennedy not to give up. I wrote him a note, [advising him] not to listen to statistics. Because many things can happen."

"I believe my recovery is a miracle."

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