Peter McCabe had no symptoms of a brain tumor back in May 2009, when the then 53-year-old Hinsdale resident had a seizure at his home.
He was taken to the emergency room at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, where tests showed a tumor on his brain. Several neurosurgeons all recommended the same treatment.
“They all said it needs to be removed,” McCabe said.
The urgency of removing the tumor depends in part on how quickly the tumor is growing. But sooner or later, in any case, it would have to come out, McCabe was told.
“I chose sooner,” he said.
Less than three weeks after the seizure Dr. James Chandler removed the tumor at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
Although most meningiomas are benign, there was a chance the tumor was cancerous. The risk was not insignificant, McCabe said.
“There was even more of a chance it could grow back,” McCabe said.
“My attitude was pretty calm. I put myself in the hands of Jesus. Whatever it is, it is, I thought. Your will be done.”
Although the operation went smoothly, there were complications, McCabe said. For 10 days after the surgery, he could not move his right arm or hand.
“When you are diagnosed with a brain tumor, you are a different person from that point on,” McCabe said.
His recovery was both slow and remarkable.
It was remarkable because four months after his surgery, the partner with the law firm Winston & Strawn was cross-examining witnesses in a patent trial.
“My mentor told me he wanted me to help him try a case in Beaumont, Texas, at the end of September,” McCabe said.
His doctor did not object. Like exercising a limb, it’s important to get the brain working again after surgery.
“We won the case,” McCabe said.
But his recovery is not complete. More than four years after the tumor was removed, his right hand has not regained all its fine motor skills. He had trouble writing and typing.
What he did concentrate on was sports.
“I’m a ball person, throwing a softball, playing golf, shooting baskets,”he said.
He had to analyze each step of throwing, for example: how to bend his wrist, how far apart to spread his fingers, when to step forward and when to release the ball.
“That was one of the first total motions that I set out to learn,” McCabe said.
People recovering from a brain injury sometimes hear the progress they make in the first 18 months is all the progress they likely will make. McCabe said that’s not true.
“I continue to improve each month even four years after the operation,” he said. “I played my best round of golf (since the tumor) a couple of weeks ago.”
The secret is to adjust and accept you are a different person.
“I’m a lot more patient than I used to be,” he said. “ When I see someone is really struggling, I have a lot better understanding of what they are going through.”
McCabe and his wife, Cindy, also are strong supporters of the Northwestern Brain Tumor Institute in Chicago.
The institute offers the most advanced clinical trials and treatments for brain and spinal cord tumors and cancers.