The Schuilwerve Family

Beaumont, TX
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Name
Brett Schuilwerve
Injury/Illness
Brain Tumor

Closing my eyes and painting up the memories of long before this sizzling East Texas day came to be, I always seem to find myself in a handful of places that only the heart and mine are able to preserve. Regardless of how many times I would recapture those picturesque East Kentucky mornings overlooking the Big Sandy River into the foothills of West Virginia the pain in my heart would claw its way to the surface for even the slightest of chances to escape it all. My memories are painted across the globe with memories of climbing Bukit Timah to the fondness of my Oma and Opa as I was mesmorized by how all of the Netherlands could be miniaturized inside Madurodam. Despite all of the wonderful memories I have, the fact remains that I was unable to get over an event that ultimately saved my life on December 13th, 2007. Despite having foolish and clumsy injuries growing up, I always considered myself to be of sound body and mind. Having just transferred to Raleigh, North Carolina from a position I held in Wilmington, I was slowly acclimated to the Capital and the new responsibilities of my job. Following a coworker home to Durham on that fateful day, I took my eyes off the road for what seemed like nothing more than five seconds. As I began turning my head back on to the road, I realized that my coworker had come to a complete stop at a traffic light and there was no way for me to repeat her action. Not wearing my seatbelt, my head hits the steering wheel and the concussion I developed was soon to become the least of my concerns. A CT scan was ordered when I arrived at Duke University's hospital. No matter my attempt at humor, I could not escape the fact that a follow-up MRI would confirm that I had a brain tumor. An Oligodendroglioma would be confirmed through a biopsy performed on Christmas Eve of 2007. Instead of recognizing the true blessing that my accident had afforded me, I sunk into the grips of anger, depression, misery and grief. I burned many bridges over the course of the next five years. It wasn't until I Christmas time of 2012 that I began to change my perspective on the world around me. My niece, Caylee, seemed to pull right at my heart strings and I couldn't go on in life letting my amazing niece know that her uncle had an axe to grind. I have struggled immensely over the past thirteen and a half years. I developed epilepsy in 2016. Over the course of the past five years, I have had just as many seizures with each one being worse than the one prior. Prior to the onset of COVID-19, during the Fall of 2019 I knew that bouncing around from one dead end job to another was far from an ideal life. All the leg work being done, I found myself as a Freshman at Lamar Institute of Technology. Knowing of my cognitive limitations due to my tumor resection on my frontal lobe, I knew that I needed to put all of my focus into school and limit any distractions. January turned into February and as the months sped on through, the fear surrounding COVID-19 ramped up and in the snap of the fingers I felt that I was back at Square one having my in-person classes shifted online. My grades slipped and my motivation faltered, but my goal of doing something better for myself was still within reach. I have continued on with classes and am working as a Student Worker at the Student Center at my school. Despite being focused on pursuing a degree in Criminal Justice, I am swimming in debt. Rent, tuition, fuel, insurance seizure medication, 3 MRIs this year and a multitude of doctor appointments have all landed me with a bank account balance just under $30. Despite being the mascot of the college and being awarded a stipend of $750, that lasted only so long. I have gone through an immense amount of self-inflicted pain where the only person to blame is typing this letter up. I understand that I have to pay for my choices in life and that all actions have consequences. My brain tumor does not make me special and I am no different than anyone else. I am merely looking for a fighting chance. My goal is to transfer to a four year program after my degree and assist people who have gone through a traumatic experience and found themselves in trouble afterwards. I don't want other people making the same mistakes I had made and I want to offer my experience as a cautionary tale for others. 

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