Crushing diagnosis: Midlands TV veteran battles brain tumors

Updated: Jul. 20, 2017 at 8:03 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For years, Midlands TV viewers knew his name and face.

Drew Stewart had worked his way up from WIS video journalist to on-camera sports reporter and later, covering news at the State House and elsewhere. But in 2008 at the age of 32, Stewart's health took a turn for the worse.

Doctors trying to treat his frequent headaches discovered a grade three astrocytoma, a brain tumor.

"I had those headaches come on and I went to my doctor who thought they might be migraines because I have a family history of migraines," Stewart says.

"Instead, I had an MRI and had a golf ball-sized tumor on my head right here," he says, pointing to an area above his forehead.

His TV work made him well known, resulting in an outpouring of support from many in the Midlands including then-USC coaches Ray Tanner and Steve Spurrier.

Stewart underwent radiation and chemotherapy treatments, which eventually led to a clean bill of health and no more problems for several years.

Until a check up last fall, when doctors found an even more menacing tumor. This one, a grade four glioblastoma, similar to the one now threatening the future of veteran Senator John McCain (R-AZ).

"It was very much a crushing diagnosis," Stewart says. "I just thought I was done with it and it was gone and that was that."

Instead, Stewart found himself undergoing surgery to remove the tumor. Now out of television, Stewart works for the South Carolina Department of Transportation and has been able to return to work.

He is still trying to regain full use of his left arm through physical therapy and wears a brace to stabilize his leg. Stewart says his recovery has been helped by support from his wife and son, family and church community.
"I feel like I'm making it back," he says.
Dr. Perrie Ryan, an oncologist at Lexington Medical Center, says youth helps in the fight to survive brain tumors. Patients over age 70 face a more difficult challenge. Senator McCain is 80.

Ryan says the grade of the tumor is also a factor in determining a patient's prognosis. Tumors are rated on a scale of one to four, with four being the most dangerous. But Ryan also says the patient's functional capacity plays a significant role.

Someone like McCain, Ryan says, living an active lifestyle and capable of handling demands of being a national political figure might better tolerate surgery and the concurrent radiation and chemotherapy programs that would follow.

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