From Brain Tumor to Medical School

Austen’s Story: Completes Radiation, Chemotherapy, and Receives a Full Ride to Medical School

In the winter of 2017, Austen an undergraduate from Oberland College couldn't straighten his left arm, and his left leg would drag as he walked. By early 2018, after being sick and nauseous he and his parents decided it was time to go to the hospital. A few days later, neurosurgeon Adam Robin, M.D., a neurosurgeon at the Henry Ford Hermelin Brain Tumor Center confirmed a brain tumor on the brain steam known as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma.

Austen and his parents met with neuro-oncologist James Snyder, D.O., who explained his brain tumor and expedited appointments with Ding Wing, M.D., to begin treatment. Initially, radiation and chemotherapy were rough for Austen; he suffered from fatigue, loss of appetite, and constipation spending most of his time in bed.

"By the last day of radiation, I could barely walk because I was so dizzy. But it did get better! About a week after radiation and chemotherapy ended, I was finally feeling a little better."

Austen and his doctor
Austen with his mom and doctor

Not Giving Up Not Giving In

Dr. Snyder sent Austen to see Ritu N. Zacharias, M.D., to develop a physical therapy regimen. Initially, Austen described therapy as "embarrassing and difficult." That all changed by the end of the fourth month. He could move and utilize all fingers in his hand, and his limp started to go away. Austen gained 90 percent of what he lost and continued to improve after therapy.

“I worked on the exercises that I was taught every chance I got at home. I was so proud of my progress,” Austen said.

Austen's storyMaking an Impact in the Community

Prior to Austen's diagnosis, he wanted to be a doctor and improve the health of his community in Detroit. "I realized that I had the same goal after my treatment was over. I knew that this was my calling after winning the fight against a brain tumor."

Through it all Austen thanks his mother Gayle Washington, a pharmacist at Henry Ford Health for inspiring him in his journey. "My mom is a big inspiration to me. She has always been there for me, very encouraging in pursuing my dreams and goals," he said.

Austen worked as a lab technician while he studied for the MCAT and medical school. In April 2021, the University of Nebraska Medical School offered him a full scholarship. “I felt that Nebraska was the place for me to go. They felt that I would be an inspiration to their class."

Austen also participated in the National Brain Tumor Head to the Hill event on behalf of Henry Ford Health. "I hope to mentor other DIPG patients in the future and give them hope. That they aren't alone and can beat this disease," he claims.

Head to the Hill team photo
Head to the Hill team photo
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