Medical Edge: Brain Tumors

Posted at: 01/29/2013 5:48 PM
By: Ellery McCardle

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Nine lives. That's what one guitarist says he has. Henry Cluney made it through a car crash and several bomb blasts in his homeland of Northern Ireland. But then he got hit with another blow; a diagnosis that threatened his music career and his life.

"I started Stiff Little Fingers, the band," said Cluney.

A punk rock band from Belfast. Cluney says their first singles were smash hits. He says their early music reflects the political situation of Northern Ireland in the late 70's and 80's.

"I suppose in Northern Ireland I could have been killed a few times. I've been through bombs and things," said Cluney.

However, the biggest bomb he faced was not during those volatile years in Belfast. It was the diagnosis last year of a brain tumor the size of a baseball.

"They said it could have been there for years. Who knows how long its been growing?" Said Cluney.

"What he had is a tumor called a subependymoma, and that's a very rare, slowly-growing brain tumor," said Dr. Derek Johnson, a neurologist at Mayo Clinic.

Johnson says Henry likely had the tumor for years and it finally got big enough to cause symptoms.

"I'd been feeling dizzy for quite a while over the summer," said Cluney.

Henry needed surgery, which brought with it a small risk of damaging motor skills needed to play the guitar.

Dr. Jason Hoover, a neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic and his team performed the operation to remove the entire tumor.

Afterwards, "the therapist brought in a guitar to me and said, 'do you want to try?' So I did and it was the way it always was. Awful. Noisy and out of tune, but at least I could still do it," said Cluney.

Now Cluney is thrilled to have lived through the violence of Belfast and maybe the biggest threat of all, a brain tumor.

"You know you're not here forever. Enjoy yourself," said Cluney.