Battling brain cancer

Published 10:40 am Thursday, February 7, 2013

From right: Scott Gardner gathers with family members Tori, Jared, Tawnya and Jacob 12 hours after undergoing major brain surgery to remove a tumor in December. Photo provided

Benefit will raise funds for Austin resident

It’s no stretch to say Scott Gardner is an optimistic person. Few people can wear a smile only 12 hours after undergoing major brain surgery.

Gardner, a 39-year-old Austin native with three children, was diagnosed late last year with brain cancer. A benefit event to cover the cost of his medical expenses and frequent trips for treatment in Rochester runs from 3 p.m. to close at the Austin Eagles Saturday, Feb. 16.

Until recently, he worked as a behavioral management advisor for the state and enjoyed coaching a softball team in his free time. Then the headaches started.

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They plagued Gardner for a while, but he chalked them up to less serious causes and took medicine, said Serena Gleason, an organizer of the benefit and the fiancé of Gardner’s brother. When symptoms worsened, he got checked out.

“He had lost peripheral vision in his right eye,” Gleason said.

Scott Gardner, right

An MRI scan on Dec. 5 in Austin revealed a mass on his brain. Gardner was taken by ambulance to Rochester to have the tumor diagnosed. It was then he found out he had glioblastoma multiforme, which doctors estimated had been growing for nine months by that point.

“This brain cancer is the most aggressive and most deadly brain cancer you can get,” Gleason said.

A week later, surgeons removed 95 percent of the tumor, which was baseball- to softball-sized, she said. Gardner, who had a reputation for his good spirits, had a smile on his face only 12 hours after the operation. He started regular treatments a couple of weeks ago, which consist of oral chemotherapy drugs along with six trips a week to Rochester for radiation treatment.

Though he has stayed in Austin, Gardner’s life is much different now. For example, he had trouble remembering how to turn a drinking fountain on.

“He could put words together but he didn’t know what they meant,” Gleason said. “His job had to let him go.”

Now, Gardner has no peripheral vision in his right eye at all, and the rest of his sight there is blurry. He has had to give up many activities, including regular visits to the diamond.

“Softball has been a huge part of his life for many years,” Gleason said. “That’s been taken away from him.”

The benefit will combine a number of activities, from food sales and raffle tickets to a silent auction. Gleason is preselling bracelets and raffle tickets. Plans are also in the works for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans to contribute.

Gleason said she and the event’s other organizers have found the community to be very supportive for Gardner, and they expect a high turnout. It’s a fitting act of kindness for Gardner — who plans to be there — because he would show the same dedication were it someone else with the brain cancer.

“Scott is the type of guy who would do anything for anybody in a situation like this,” Gleason said. “He’s just a great person altogether.”

She knows it from experience. Gardner stayed by her side tirelessly after her daughter passed away.

“His support for us was amazing,” she said. “This is my chance to give it back.”