HOPE: Having Only Positive Expectations

Katie CorunIn 2011, Katie Corun was in her third semester of nursing school in Maryland when she began having personality changes—moodiness and anger. Neither she nor her husband of seven months, Ron, or her mother, Kathy, could figure out what was going on.

While sitting in a neurology lecture, she suddenly lost vision in her right eye. After seeing her optometrist who ran some tests, she was referred to a physician for more testing and finally an MRI that revealed a tumor on her optic chiasm where the optic nerves intersect. She underwent nine hours of brain surgery for a biopsy since the tumor was inoperable and suffered a cerebellar hemorrhage. Finally, she was diagnosed with an astrocytoma. Doctors gave her no treatment options and told her to expect to live just six months to a year.

“Thankfully,” Corun says, “my dedicated mother and supportive husband took a leap of faith and took me to Duke, and we were greeted by absolute angels.”

One of those “angels” was her oncologist, Annick Desjardins, MD, FRCPE. “I asked her, ‘How much longer do I have?’” Corun says. “She said she didn’t know. I was confused. But what she taught me was hope. I can’t change yesterday. I can’t predict tomorrow. But what I can do is hope for the best. To me, hope is Having Only Positive Expectations.”

Corun started on an oral chemotherapy along with intravenous bevacizumab (Avastin), which stops blood vessel growth that can feed the tumor. She had monthly visits to Duke, as well as regular care from an oncologist near her home. She took oral chemotherapy daily and biweekly infusions for almost two years.

Katie Corun with doctorBy 2013, the tumor in Corun’s brain had shrunk and was no longer visible on MRI. She continues with routine MRIs and is happy to report no tumor growth.

Even during treatment, she was able to complete her nursing degree. Corun now works as a registered nurse. “My original motivation for going into nursing was because it was a good career. But when I became a patient, it changed my whole perception of what nursing is all about, and what kind of nurse I want to be,” she says. She regularly volunteers as an ambassador for the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center.

“If it hadn’t been for my family looking out for me, and my husband standing by me, and the wonderful staff at Duke University caring for me, I wouldn’t have my whole life ahead of me.”

Corun continues to see Desjardins regularly. “When I come down for visits, it’s like I’m on vacation, and like I’m with family,” she says.

April 14, 2021

By Angela Spivey