Tiffani Rockwell-Fomera was used to seizures, as she had suffered greatly from them until she was in the fifth grade, so the episode that she experienced on August 8, 2018 while getting ready to leave for work was at first nothing new.
It only took a few moments, however, before Fomera realized that what she was feeling was not the same thing that had plagued her when she was a child.
“I told my husband, Joe, that something wasn’t right,” said Fomera. “I thought it was a stroke.”
Fomera was rushed to Mercy Hospital Lincoln in Troy, Missouri.
Unfortunately, the hospital in Troy has no neurologist.
That being the case, Fomera was forced to settle for a teleconference with a neurologist elsewhere.
Following her phone conference, Fomera was taken to Mercy Hospital St. Louis (Formerly St. John’s Hospital in St. Louis).
By this time, doctors were fairly certain that Fomera was not having a stroke.
For her part, Fomera was hoping that the seizures of her youth had simply returned in a different form.
From August 8 - 20, Fomera underwent test after test, and then finally a surgery.
Those were twelve very stressful days, but Fomera said she felt a real peace the entire time.
“I come from a pretty religious family,” said Fomera. “On August 10th, I will never forget that day, I just felt the presence of God. He said, ‘I’ve got you.’.”
On August 17, Fomera underwent what she called an “awake craniotomy.”
She had to remain conscious in order to respond to some of the commands from the surgeon.
Following the surgery, Fomera and her family had to wait three days for the results.
“I was scared to death every time medical personnel came in the room,” said Fomera.
Fomera was sent home on August 20, still waiting for a diagnosis.
“I had to go home,” said Fomera. “I had started to feel like I was just taking up space that somebody else could be using.”
On August 27, Fomera was told that she had Stage 4 Glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer.
Because she had just had surgery, Fomera had to wait four weeks to heal before chemotherapy could begin.
Radiation treatments, however, began fairly quickly, on September 6 in fact.
When the chemotherapy pills were eventually added to the radiation treatments, Fomera became violently ill.
Regardless, she found a way to persevere, and she endured radiation treatments five days per week for six weeks, as well as seven weeks of chemotherapy.
In November of 2018, Fomera began a new form of treatment known as Novocure Optune, which involved putting arrays on her head which would heat up and destroy any new cancer cells that were forming.
She received this treatment until March 2019, at which time testing showed that eighty percent of the tumors on the left side of Fomera’s brain had been destroyed, but something had now developed on the right side, and doctors were not entirely sure what it was.
During an MRI later that same month, doctors found that there was still a suspicious spot on the right side of Fomera’s brain, and that it had not yet stopped growing, which meant that the chemo and the Novocure Optune were not working.
At that point, all treatment stopped.
The good news, however, was that the spot on her right side had grown to a size that allowed for easier removal via surgery.
Fomera underwent that surgery on March 25.
She was completely under for that one, and she spent two nights in the hospital.
In April, Fomera began undergoing a new round of chemotherapy.
In fact, she was given two different types of chemo at the same time.
Fomera will receive four of those treatments in total, and she has already undergone two of them.
If her next MRI in June reveals that her cancer isn’t shrinking or disappearing entirely, then Fomera will begin a treatment known as Gamma Knife, a method designed to be minimally invasive and to spare healthy tissue around the cancer site.
Despite all that she has been through, Fomera is extremely positive.
“I feel good,” said Fomera. “I always have, except for the initial treatment phase when the chemo made me sick.”
Meanwhile, Fomera has had another seizure, this one different from the last, and from those that she knew in her childhood as well.
The good news is that other testing has revealed that the remaining twenty percent of the cancer on Fomera’s left side has gotten smaller, and there is no new tumor growth anywhere.
Fomera said she couldn’t have asked for a better support structure, both medically and personally.
“The people at the David T. Pratt Cancer Center at Mercy Hospital have been wonderful,” said Fomera. “Kim Jones and all of the other staff members at Elsberry High School who helped arrange the ‘Orange Out The Night’ fundraiser for us were awesome as well.”
Fomera added that her parents, other family members, and friends at the Elsberry United Methodist Church have helped in countless ways, most importantly by driving her to all of her appointments during the initial phases of her treatment.
“I am so thankful that I have such a loving and caring family,” said Fomera.
Fomera said that two of the most important things to remember when one is battling cancer are to rely on one’s faith and to learn to let other people help.