Brain Tumor Awareness Month, Day 11.

Another vocabulary word from the day my son was diagnosed with a brain tumor: Hydrocephalus. Water on the brain. 

I had heard of it before that October morning in the radiology lab. I had the notion that babies were sometimes born with hydrocephalus, and it caused their heads to swell, since the plates of the skull are not yet fused. 

For an 11 year old, the skull is solid. Excess fluid in the brain will push against and compress the soft tissue, the grey and white matter that controls every aspect of our ability to function.

Normally, cerebrospinal fluid flows from the spinal column up into the brain, and then exits back down again. Matt’s tumor, attached to his brain stem, blocked one of the exits, so the fluid had no place to go.

That’s why Matt’s symptoms were so pervasive—cognitive, physical, emotional. His poor brain was literally being squished.

Had it gone undetected much longer … I shudder to think of the outcome.

So I don’t.

I think about how lucky we are that Matt’s brain, and our family, has recovered.


  • An emerging writer in upstate, NY, Karen DeBonis tells her story on her website, in publications like the NY Times, (a Tiny Love Story), in her “Become Emboldened” projects, and elsewhere. "Growth: A Mother, her Son, and the Brain Tumor they Survived" Karen’s transformational memoir about a woman’s quest for authenticity and the courage to speak her truth, is currently available for representation.

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  1. John Rampolla on May 13, 2018 at 3:57 PM

    So happy to know that, even though your mothering experiences felt like they wore you out and sometimes tore you apart, you are better for it and can still be a mom – and a strong example of perseverance – for two fine young men. Happy Mother’s Day!

  2. Karen DeBonis on May 14, 2018 at 3:01 PM

    John! Thanks for your comment and the Mother’s Day wishes! Yes, I am a better person for what I’ve been through, and I only just realized lately that that’s what the whole book is about. XXOO

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