NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee native Brian Toungette will be turning 50 on Wednesday. "Happy birthday" is a phrase many of us look forward to hearing as we celebrate another year around the sun. To Toungette, this year is extra special as he's also celebrating being tumor-free.
In summer 2018, Brian started experiencing random health issues that seemed both minor and unrelated. His blood pressure shot up despite his healthy lifestyle, he began experiencing deeply painful headaches, and he was visited with strange bouts of dizziness.
At an eye doctor appointment for his daughter, he decided to ask the optometrist if she could take a few minutes to check his vision. The optometrist noticed worrisome swelling and hemorrhaging in Brian's retinas and referred him to an ophthalmologist.
"If not for that eye exam on that day, I wouldn't have no idea that there was something more serious going on," Toungette said.
That ophthalmologist, Dr. Trent Wallace of Tennessee Retina, would go on to request an MRI where doctors found a brain tumor.
Toungette met with Dr. Steven Abram, a neurosurgeon affiliated with the Howell Allen Clinic at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital Midtown.
"I remember my first meeting with Dr. Abram, like he inspired so much confidence, he was very direct and matter-of-fact," said Toungette.
He said Dr. Abram told him, "I'm going to tell you right now that your attitude will have a significant impact on how you go forward."
"I decided that I already beat this tumor," said Toungette.
Over the next several months, Brian would complete 60 days of radiation under the care of Dr. Abram and Dr. Kent Shih of Tennessee Oncology. Radiation was followed by 6 months of chemotherapy that concluded in September 2019.
"I was like what do I need to do now and he looked at me and said live man, live. And so I've been living ever since then," Toungette said.
Post-chemotherapy, Brian continued to have routine MRI scans every 3 months. In December 2020, Brian received the disappointing news that the original tumor was showing signs of potential new growth.
Doctors acted fast with a new type of surgery using a laser to remove tumors called NeuroBlate, which is laser ablation of brain tumors.
"The procedure was completed successful and no additional treatment was required."
Brian says he couldn't celebrate this milestone without the group of heroes who gave him a chance to live again, so this week, he's celebrating them.
"I'm just so blessed for the care that I received and that has allowed me to approach my 50th birthday like I never had a brain tumor," said Toungette.
A self-described Disney fanatic, Toungette is celebrating his 50th birthday with a trip to Disney World with his wife and kids. They have a family tradition of seeing how many times they can ride Space Mountain on any given trip.
This story was originally published by Kelsey Gibbs at WTVF.