Jodi Brooks's Story
Cancer doesn't discriminate. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, any time.
In June 2020, Jodi Brooks, 46, was out for a walk while talking to her nephew on the phone when her vision suddenly went fuzzy. Words didn't make sense, and then everything went dark.
"My nephew just graduated from middle school, so I asked him what he wanted. But for some reason, I couldn't understand what he was saying. It was like he was speaking another language," she says. Jodi's sister called her husband Sam, who found his wife sitting on the sidewalk, unable to recognize him.
Sam called an ambulance, which rushed Jodi to NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. An MRI showed a walnut-sized lesion in the left temporal lobe of her brain. The lesion was a stage 3 malignant brain tumor.
"This was devastating, to say the least," says Jodi, a managing partner at a marketing agency. "It was also shocking, as there is no cancer history in my family."
It's unknown why these tumors develop, says Dr. Rohan Ramakrishna, a Weill Cornell Medicine neurosurgeon and chief of neurosurgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital. "It's good news for Jodi's son that it's not hereditary, but it's a great mystery as to how and why they form in some people. What we do know is that they require advanced, multidisciplinary care, with specialists experienced in providing a well-coordinated effort."
Co-director of the William Rhodes and Louise Tilzer-Rhodes Center for Glioblastoma, Dr. Ramakrishna is dedicated to offering comprehensive treatment plans to improve survival odds for his patients.
"Jodi's tumor was so close to the speech and language areas of her brain that I wanted to do an awake craniotomy," says Dr. Ramakrishna. That's an advanced procedure in which we wake a patient up from anesthesia during the surgery, then 'map' the brain so we can monitor their speech while the surgery is in progress. If I get too close to that 'eloquent' area, we know right away, and I can stop."
Due to the complexity of the procedure, Dr. Ramakrishna scheduled the surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Dr. Ramakrishna removed about 80 percent of the tumor, and Jodi came through the surgery very well, with no loss of language function.
But that was just the beginning.
With these malignancies, if a single cell is left behind, it can start to replicate. Jodi had to undergo six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy to find any remaining tumor cells and treat them. She then started a 12-month regimen of intensive chemotherapy treatment under the guidance of neuro-oncologist Dr. Rajiv Magge. Every eight weeks, Dr. Ramakrishna scans her brain to see if the tumor has regrown.
Jodi is feeling well — she's back to work and caring for her family. She is grateful for the support she's received from everyone around her.
"This would be difficult enough at any time," Jodi says. "But experiencing this during a global pandemic has made it much tougher. I'm very grateful for my family and friends, my colleagues, my renowned medical team — they have made it possible for me to get through this."
Since receiving her diagnosis, Jodi has become an advocate for brain tumor research and education. She's enlisted her colleagues to raise money for brain cancer research through Be Bold, Be Bald!, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fundraising for cancer research.
"I never wanted to be part of this tribe they call “cancer,” nor did I ever imagine being a cancer spokesperson, but it happened, and I've had time to embrace the experience and own it," she says. "Cancer doesn't discriminate. It can happen to anyone, anywhere, any time. You don't know when today's research might provide the cure for you or a loved one, so it's in everyone's interest to keep the effort going."