After brain cancer surgery, patient feels superhero connection

Mar. 5, 2018

Many young men would love to be Wolverine – the Marvel character known for his claws, his strength and his ability to heal himself.

After three surgeries for glioblastoma in November 2016, Travis Sauerwald woke up believing he was Wolverine, complete with self-healing powers and metal in his body.

Once Travis’s mind cleared, Wolverine became an inspiration. Although rebellious and rough around the edges, Wolverine does what’s necessary to help others and the world.

That’s what Travis wanted to do, too. He and his wife, Julie, established Team Wolverine to raise money for brain cancer research by participating in the Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk in September 2017. After Travis’s diagnosis, he wanted to help others and the couple had already completed this marathon to celebrate their one-year wedding anniversary in 2013. It felt natural to go back to that event when Travis wanted to do more good. Plus, it helped Travis remain active, something his doctors at Wilmot Cancer Institute recommended.

While still undergoing chemotherapy, Travis trained, walking often and participating in the Wilmot Warrior Walk 10K in September 2017. His team members walked the route with him to help raise funds for research at Wilmot. Two weeks later, it was time for the big day. He finished the walk in Boston and in total, he raised $25,000 for cancer research.

In December 2017, he learned a new tumor had appeared. He needed six more weeks of daily radiation as well as chemotherapy. Because of its location, Travis has also needed occupational, physical and speech therapy.

Travis SauerwaldDespite this setback, Travis still holds onto the inspiration from Wolverine. On each of his 30 days of radiation therapy at Wilmot, Travis wore a Wolverine T-shirt. On his last day of radiation, he even brought out his Wolverine hoody.

It was perfect to wear while ringing the Radiation Oncology bell, which hadn’t been there the first time he finished radiation. He says it felt more emotional than he expected.

As he rang it, he reflected on the future as well as all the people who’ve pulled for him in the past 16 months – his wife, his family, his friends, his doctors and his nurses.

For Travis, you might even consider them a whole team of superheroes — his own team of X-men —ready to support their beloved Wolverine when he needed it most.