Kari Crawford, 29, of Champion, discovered two years ago that she had a very large tumor in the left part of her brain.
“I would just kind of have like a déjà vu feeling, a really strange one for about 30 seconds tops and then my face would get all tingly, my heart would start beating fast and I’d get a little nauseous,” Crawford said.
Crawford said she thought it was stress, but then it started happening three times a day, every day.
An MRI on Nov. 17, 2010, revealed that Crawford had a massive tumor in the left side of her brain. The doctors didn’t even have to point out the tumor because it was plain to see.
Crawford had a major operation to remove the tumor on Dec. 7, 2010. But then in April last year, a routine MRI revealed that the tumor was growing again.
“It was like a slap in the face and I almost didnt’ want to believe them, you know?,” Crawford said.
She had her second surgery Sept. 4, 2012. That surgery was very different from the first because the tumor was 1/20th the size, and she had an “awake surgery,’ which she said was pretty intense.
She was out of the hospital in about 24 hours after the second surgery, as opposed to the five days she spent in the hospital after the first. She also didn’t have any trouble speaking after the second surgery.
The second surgery, followed by radiation, has erased the tumor for now. But it has been a long, difficult road.
So Crawford has turned to an old friend to get her through it. His name is Commander and he is a thoroughbred race horse.
“We’ve come a long way, me and him. When I adopted him, he was psychotic,” she said with a laugh.
Commander was abused as a race horse and Crawford said no one had ever really spent time working with him. After working with Commander for five years, Crawford has developed a special relationship with the now gentle horse, who she said truly understands her.
“So when I got him, he was insane. I couldn’t walk him five steps without him rearing and bucking and just trying to rip himself away from whoever was around him,” Crawford said.
She has lost two horses, so she said she was concerned about all the medication Commander was on when she adopted him.
“So I came in here and I made an agreement with him that if he gets better I’ll go through with the radiation, and at that time he wasn’t really eating his hay or anything. As soon as I told him, he walked over and started eating his hay. I swear, people think I’m nuts, but I feel like I have Mr. Ed sometimes,” Crawford said.
Commander lives at a boarding stable in Cortland.
“This place is so peaceful, all the land that we have here and everything. I’ve meditated up there and he just comes and puts his face so cautiously on mine. If I didn’t have him, I mean I would still find peace, but coming here, no matter what’s going on, I can just relax with him, usually,” Crawford said.
And even though the tumor seems to be gone, Crawford may never be considered tumor free.
“You’re always wondering as the time’s going on if something’s growing, because you just never know. I have to say, day by day, I’m trying to live as much as I can. Because nobody knows when their time is out,” she said.
That is why her husband, Jason, has organized the First Annual Brain Canter 5K Race in Trumbull County.
“He feels like he can’t help me, there’s nothing he can do to cure what I have, but taking these steps will hopefully help to find a cure one day, that’s what we’re hoping for,” Crawford said.
The Brain Canter 5K Run/Walk is April 6 at the Kent State University Trumbull Campus. Registration and packet pickup will take place from 8 a.m. until 9:30 a.m. The race begins at 10 a.m. and will start and end at the KSU Technology Building, with the race following a course down Educational Highway to Champion Street and back along Lake Anne.
Registration is $15 before Sunday and $20 after that and the day of the race, with all proceeds being donated to the National Brain Tumor Society. The first 150 pre-registered entrants will receive a t-shirt.
First-place overall finishers for men and women will receive $50. Awards also will be given for the top three finishers for males and females in various age groups.
To register or for more information, email Jason Crawford at firstname.lastname@example.org or Sarah Flament at email@example.com. Or, registration can be done online by clicking here.