Local musician urges awareness of brain tumors as part of the Medical University of South Carolina’s Brain Tumor Action Month

  • Posted: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 12:01 a.m., Updated: Tuesday, May 1, 2012 12:05 a.m.
Local musician Mac Leaphart had surgery to remove a brain tumor from his frontal lobe Nov. 21, 2011, and while he returned to performing shortly afterwards, he admits that he still hasn’t fully recovered.

For about two years, local musician Mac Leaphart just didn’t feel right.

If you go

The Medical University of South Carolina is hosting events in honor of Brain Tumor Action Month. Here are some of the highlights:



Today-Friday: Awareness Display on the first floor of Hollings Cancer Center will offer free brochures, awareness bracelets, tickets for a drawing, and T-shirts for sale, all proceeds of which go directly to the MUSC Brain Tumor Research fund.

May 17: At 5:30 p.m., a series of short lectures on a variety of support services at the Marriott Hotel at 170 Lockwood Drive, titled “Fast Rounds: Answers to Questions We Forget to Ask When Diagnosed With a Brain Tumor.”

May 18: Charleston RiverDogs will hold Brain Tumor Awareness Night at 7 p.m. at Riley Stadium.

For more events, see the calendar on page D3.

He was in his early 30s but started to have headaches, fatigue and a lack of motivation. He saw a therapist for possible depression, but soon realized that wasn’t the problem. His family doctor diagnosed him with a sinus infection — three times — and that didn’t take care of it either.

Then on Oct. 21, he fainted while driving on the Crosstown near Spring Street and wrecked. No one else was harmed, but that accident led to seeing a neurologist and getting an MRI.

The results of the MRI explained it all. Leaphart had a brain tumor.

A month after the accident, he had surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina to remove the benign tumor, which was the size of a plum, from his frontal lobe.

While he moved back to Greenville to recover at his parent’s house and “still doesn’t feel 100 percent,” Leaphart quickly returned to playing music and performing. On Saturday, he played at Home Team BBQ on Sullivan’s Island.

An advocate is born
Barely six months since the accident, Leaphart is among the latest recruits in the campaign to raise awareness of and money for brain tumor research. This week, a DVD of a benefit in late January, Mac’n at the Drome, will be on sale on Leaphart’s website (www.macleaphart.com) with proceeds benefiting research at MUSC.

Leaphart plans to help MUSC’s Brain & Spine Tumor Program raise awareness about tumors. He will be part of a benefit concert May 12 at the King Street Grille (soon Castaway’s Grille) on James Island.

Looking back at his gradually worsening symptoms, Leaphart says, “I should’ve seen something coming. ... I didn’t suspect having a brain tumor. Even when I got an MRI, I didn’t suspect it.”

Be aware
Doctors, though, note that people should be more aware of warning signs.

Dr. Pierre Giglio, associate professor in neurology and neuro-oncology at MUSC, says brain tumors may cause symptoms such as headache, nausea and vomiting that are related to an increase in pressure inside the head.

“Many headaches are ‘benign’ and caused by conditions such as migraine, such as when the pain is usually in episodes or from sinus infections, et cetera,” says Giglio. “Warning signs that a headache may not be benign include progressive worsening of a headache, lack of response to pain medications and associated symptoms such as visual blurring, double vision, nausea and vomiting.”

Giglio says that brain tumors also may cause symptoms by affecting different brain centers that normally produce speech, motor movement and appreciation of sensation on the body.

“These symptoms depend on tumor location. Tumors in certain parts of the brain may also affect memory. Symptoms such as word-finding difficulty, memory problems and weakness or numbness on either side of the body or face should prompt an individual to seek medical attention immediately.”

He adds that seizures may be the most dramatic presentation of a brain tumor, especially if they result in involuntary motor movement or loss of consciousness.

“Brain tumors can be treated, and the earlier they are treated, the better the results. Some types of benign brain tumors can even be cured if discovered and treated promptly. Others can be stopped from growing or slowed down for years, resulting in good control of symptoms,” says Giglio.

Reach David Quick at 937-5516.

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