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How do you feel about life as a whole? Do you cherish each and every moment in life? Most people donít ever think that they could lose it all. I would like to share experiences in my life that opened my eyes and made me cherish each moment of my life.

In December of 1989, when I was 10, my sight began to disappear. Playing games on the computer was my favorite pastime. All of a sudden it was really hard for me to keep up with the speed of games. I found myself only a few inches from the computer screen.

My parents knew there was something wrong, and so they took me in to an eye specialist. He said I had optic nerve damage. An MRI confirmed that I had a brain tumor growing between my optic nerve and pituitary gland. The tumor showed up on the computer after I was injected with a dye to enhance abnormal cells. I had five doctors helping in my treatment.

Located in the middle of my head, the tumor was inoperable. We decided to treat it with radiation first and see how it would react to treatment. Luckily for me, it soon shrank. I went through 29 radiation treatments with many blood tests in between treatments. This was necessary to check my white blood cell count because radiation kills good cells besides the bad. The worst part was the side effects of the treatment; sickness. It is like having a bad flu. Your energy level drops to nearly nothing. I lost a lot of weight because I couldnít keep most foods down. I felt really sick most of the time. It took three months to get through treatment, but it seemed to go on forever.

Sometimes I felt sick, like there was a fire inside of me. The worst experience was when my hair fell out. I was only in fourth grade. I didnít know how the other kids in my class would react to it. Would they laugh at me? My teacher let my wear a hat. One day at recess while I was playing the cap blew off. It wasnít bad at all. The kids didnít seem to mind. My teacher saw it happen. When everyone was back inside she explained to the kids why I was bald. This made me feel better, and I even stopped wearing the cap around school. But I did wear it outside so my head wouldnít get sunburned.

Since then I have also had a thyroidectomy when I found I had thyroid cancer. This was caused by my radiation as a little kid years ago. This was unexpected so it has been a difficult year. I have also had another brain tumor surgically removed. This tumor was not detected till I had a seizure occur.

My health is now secure again. Yet, this was another unexpected incident in my life. During my recovery, doctors recommended that I take it down a few notches, so I then looked for living options here in Duluth.

I have now been here for approximately ten years and have been focusing on my therapeutic art.




The Paper Crane, Todd Olson, origami, crane, commission art, art, reptiles, star wars
The Paper Crane, Todd Olson, origami, crane, commission art, art, reptiles, star wars

Reflecting back on these unsure years I feel numb to all of the medical pokes, picks, scans, and procedures. I do feel there is many things I may have missed out on in my younger years but it is what pushes me on to new challenges in life that continue to send me in different directions.

My family and friends have always supported me through out my life.

I was baptized into a Lutheran Church before I can even remember. Growing up this always was an important time of my life. After high school and into college I found a couple of extra groups like Campus Crusade, and other Ministry groups that kept God in my life.

Cancer has affected many parts of my life. First it has left me with limited eyesight, and I must take replacement drugs for hormones produced in my non-functioning pituitary gland for the rest of my life.

Second, Cancer has taught me to be compassionate, to help others, to enjoy life, and live each day to its fullest. You never know what could happen to you. No one believes it could happen to them, but it can, and does happen to many.

Third, I learned the value of family as my ongoing strength throughout this entire ordeal. They were always there to comfort me and cheer me up. All of them really kept my hopes up. There were times when I felt like giving up, but then I would think of how it would hurt them and their pain kept me going.

A fourth positive to come from my experiences was origami. A year prior to my illness I was introduced to origami paper folding by a Japanese foreign exchange student who was staying with some friends. Somehow he heard that I was ill and sent me one thousand paper cranes as a get well gift. Senbazuru, as they are called in Japan, look amazing all strung together by needle and thread. The cranes hang in a three foot long arrangement. It is so colorful and cheerful. When I received them in the mail I just had to learn how to make some origami objects, so I got a book and started to fold. Once I learned one thing I went on to another item. Pretty soon I knew several different objects and gave me something to do with my time.

I still spend a lot of time folding origami and have even made a small business. Teaching people the art of origami gives me much satisfaction. I love to share this amazing art with everyone. Yes, it is still on my bucket list to travel to Japan and learn about their culture.

On Saturday†May 21st, 2016, I had a stroke while I was sleeping that night. When I woke up the next morning I had paralysis on my left side; I had slurred speech, and no strength at all on my left side. I then went directly to the ER. After many tests the following days I was told that I had a rare brain bleed called a Hemorrhagic Stroke. After a week or so in the hospital I was moved directly over to the rehab center where I started to work hard to gain strength and cognitive traits back. This was a lot of hard work but I found out that I needed to look at it week by week, instead of day by day. This was quite an emotional roller coaster for myself, my family, and my friends; but most importantly God helped me keep going. After 45 days I got out of rehab and was able to move back into my apartment.

Now, I will be going down to the University of Minnesota to have my case looked at by a neurosurgeon. Hopefully, I will find out what my next steps will be.

Febuary, 2019 update:
I am now spending the last week down here in Florida healing up from my last brain surgery where I had two larger meningiomas removed. Like last year, I had my first one removed on the left side of my brain. It took me an entire 2 1/2 days to get back to my apartment. This year, I had two meningiomas removed from the very center of my brain. My doctor down at the U of M in the Cities took an entire six hours to get both of them removed. Sigh~

So anyway, this year it has taken about 21 days and well over a month now for my brain to begin to heal up properly. So wow, once again I survived another big one. Now I have a good 2 1/2 to 3 years before my next meningioma is removed. Then we will go on to take a look at some other things.

Anyhow, that is about it. Within the next week, I will be back in Duluth and kind of turning to my new life so to speak as a person with my cancer-disability stuff.

Anybody, regardless of age, sex, race, creed or religion can get cancer. However, medical advancements have given most cancer patients hope for complete recovery. My prognosis is for a long and healthy life. My ophthalmologist is hopeful that optic nerves will be able to be repaired sometime during my life. Perhaps I will gain my sight back. We must take what life has given us and make the best of it. Life is a challenge, but you must cherish it.

Peace, Todd Olson

I hope my story does inspire other people in their lives. I also really do enjoy hearing about other inspirational stories so please feel free to share them. They always encourage me to go forward- Life Does Not End Here-

Todd was featured on KBJR NBC News, which you can find here.