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Shawn Kogler

Anaplastic Astrocytoma

As a Buffalo Bills fan, Shawn Kogler enjoys football. Without the sport, his doctors may not have discovered his brain tumor when they did.

In 2015, while playing catch with his son, Shawn got a text message. He looked down at his phone and the football hit him in the head, causing him to stammer and his speech to freeze. He didn’t feel right after that but figured he had just “gotten his bell rung.”

When he still displayed symptoms after a couple months, Shawn saw his primary care doctor. An MRI revealed that he had a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma — a rare malignant brain tumor. Despite this, he remained upbeat. 

“I’m just a positive person. I never said ‘why me.’ I said, ‘Why not me? Why can’t I be the one to beat this?’ I’m never one to question why,” he says.

Shawn came to Wilmot Cancer Institute, where a team of brain tumor experts — including the region’s only specialists in neuropathology and neuro-oncology — worked together to ensure he received the most precise treatment.

Before he underwent surgery to remove the tumor, Shawn participated in an NIH-funded study led by Bradford Mahon, Ph.D. It mapped areas of Shawn’s brain that control functions like memory and language, revealing the precise locations of these functions.

These images helped neurosurgeon Kevin Walter, M.D., to tailor Shawn’s operation to his brain’s structure and remove the tumor while protecting the areas that control language and motor function.

After Shawn’s surgery in October 2015, the University of Rochester Medical Center’s specialized neuropathologists analyzed his tumor for genetic mutations. Their analysis provided Shawn's neuro-oncologist, Joy Burke, M.D., with detailed information about the biology of his tumor. With those details, Burke and her colleagues outlined a course of treatment specific to Shawn’s needs.

He began a regimen of radiation therapy and temozolomide, a pill form of chemotherapy that he took at home. He even worked with Wilmot’s Specialty Pharmacy to have it mailed directly to his house, which made it more convenient.

After three months off from working as a mover in the Custodial Services department at St. John Fisher College, Shawn returned to his job in January 2016. More than a year later, he is doing well. He’s grateful for the support he received from his family, friends and work colleagues, as well as for the care he received at Wilmot.

“Everybody involved, they’ve been fabulous,” he says. “I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

“I'm just a positive person,” Shawn says. “I never said, ‘Why me?’ I said, ‘Why not me? Why can’t I be the one to beat this?’ ”