Patient Tatiana Sarkisian continues to inspire others with brain tumor diagnoses
SANTA MONICA – Tatiana Sarkisian is on a mission. As a brain cancer patient and survivor, the 31-year-old hopes to use her voice to create lasting change in cancer care, brain health and ongoing support for brain tumor patients.
“I’m really passionate about creating this community for brain tumor patients,” said Sarkisian, who was diagnosed with a grade III astrocytoma brain tumor at age 23. Following the discovery of her tumor, Sarkisian underwent successful surgery and treatment before the cancer returned six years later.
“After my experience, I recognized that it was important for me to create awareness around what a diagnosis really means since not many people know what a brain tumor is,” said Sarkisian, noting that brain tumors can be a collection of abnormal cells that either start in the brain itself or spread to the brain from other parts of the body.
May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month and patients like Sarkisian will join nurses and doctors from the Pacific Neuroscience Institute (PNI) and Providence Saint John’s Health Center to “Go Gray in May.” The events planned are not only a nod to the gray ribbons that represent brain cancer awareness and support at national and international levels, but also a representation of the gray matter that makes up the central nervous system and helps the brain control movement, memory and emotion.
The month-long Go Gray in May campaign came to life in 2021 with the hard work and creativity of survivorship nurse practitioner Ana Rocha MSN, AGNP, RN, who is co-leading the events this year.
“Providence Saint John’s Health Center and the Pacific Neuroscience Institute are committed to developing innovative and comprehensive care plans for patients and their families,” said Akanksha Sharma, M.D., a neuro-oncologist at PNI’s Pacific Brain Health Center and a physician lead for the 2022 Go Gray in May initiative. “Our goal with Go Gray in May is to celebrate our brain tumor community and recognize their resilience and strength, and also expand the public’s knowledge of brain tumors and brain cancers. The field strongly needs additional research and funding that will lead to new therapies and treatments to improve both survival and quality of life for our patients.”
As part of the awareness month, PNI and Providence Saint John’s will host a series of events to allow patients, caregivers and the community to connect with each other and share in each other’s experiences, ask questions and learn more about a variety of treatment and supportive care options for brain tumors, and celebrate this incredibly courageous community.
Sarkisian hopes the month-long activities will not only expand public education and awareness, but also help the community connect and engage with individuals who are undergoing treatment for brain cancer, as they often feel overshadowed or isolated by a rare diagnosis that is not often externally visible.
“My intention was just to say, ‘Hey, we are human too.’ You don’t need to be diagnosed yourself to connect with one of us,” Sarkisian said. “And we should all be taking better care of our brain anyways.”
Go Gray in May kicked off with a social hour on May 3 for patients and loved ones to interact and learn more about the innovative treatment options at PNI and Providence Saint John’s. Throughout the month, PNI will host biweekly webinars, share patient and caregiver stories and facilitate a community art project.
The celebrations will close on Thursday, May 26 with an awareness walk around the hospital that is open to the public, including patients, caregivers, physicians, loved ones and advocates to demonstrate support.
Learn more about Go Gray in May here.