For University of Washington Bothell junior Anthony Hopkins, the opportunity to participate in this Saturday’s Seattle Brain Cancer Walk represents the next chapter in his incredible success story.
Four years ago, just after his sophomore year of high school at Bishop Blanchet in Seattle, the Greenwood resident went into surgery at Swedish Hospital to remove an large tumor in his brain.
Since then, it’s been a long, hard road to recovery, but Hopkins hopes his story will inspire others similarly afflicted, to believe that they can beat the disease like he did.
“Showing that everybody has a second chance, and that anything’s possible,” said Hopkins on what participating in the Walk means to him. “And that once a cure is found, I won’t be the only one walking, there will be tons of people walking, survivors and patients.”
Hopkins’ symptoms of the tumor began at a very young age.
In fact, he was so young, that the diagnosis of brain cancer never even entered the equation.
“The first time I started having the symptoms, I was seven years old, and they said it must have been a migraine,” Hopkins remembered. “I came in two years later and they said it was low blood sugar, they told me to eat a bunch of almonds. My whole life I was eating almonds.”
As Hopkins progressed through grade school and middle school, however, his symptoms worsened.
He would forget how to speak, and have extremely high fevers of 103 degrees or more along with bouts of extreme fatigue and amnesia.
“If someone was talking to me, I’d forget everything they said in literally, one second,” Hopkins recalled.
Along with the frustration of being misdiagnosed for nine years, the shock of having cancer at the age of 16 was hard to take.
“I was like, ‘there has to be some kind of mistake,'” said Hopkins. “I can’t believe it’s this major.”
In June of 2008, the neurosurgical team at Swedish successfully removed an egg-sized tumor from Hopkins’ left temporal lobe, and Hopkins’ long process of physical and emotional healing began.
HITTING THE BOOKS
After the surgery, Hopkins was set to begin his junior year of high school, the most important year of a student’s prep education as far as getting into college.
While his teachers were understanding and did what they could to help the young man succeed, the memory loss he suffered made being a student much more difficult.
“I’d spend double my time studying, and it was really hard, because all the new memory you have goes in the left temporal lobe, and a giant chunk of that is gone,” he noted. “All I could do is try and push myself.”
Hopkins eventually graduated and was accepted into UW-Bothell, where the academics got even harder.
But the 21-year-old was ready for the challenge.
He took advantage of the school’s many resources and small class sizes to get the additional help he needed as he pursued a full courseload.
“The community and the teachers,” said Hopkins on what he enjoys most about being a Husky at UW-Bothell. “The teachers are really nice here… and you don’t have to fight through 25 TAs. You can get the information you need, and the tutors here really help me out because there’s some things I still can’t comprehend as easily as other people.”
Earlier this summer, Hopkins found out he got accepted into one of the most rigorous and demanding majors offered at UW-Bothell, Computer Software Systems (CSS), proving all of his hard work paid off.
“It requires a lot of memorization,” said Hopkins on studying in the CSS field. “It was definitely a lot of work I had to do, and learning styles I had to (draw) from.”
A FRESH PERSPECTIVE
As a teen dealing with the health issues he had to face on a daily basis, it would have been easy for Hopkins to develop a cynical outlook on life.
Over time, his challenges had the exact opposite effect on him.
“It definitely has changed everything,” he said. “When they told me I had a brain tumor, and they said it was the size of an egg, I thought I was going to die. It’s kind of hard to explain unless you’ve been there, but you have to grasp every day as if it’s your last.”
He has also turned down special accommodations during classes, such as the ability to use notes or get extra time during exams.
“I don’t feel I necessarily want to do that,” he admitted. “That’s changing 16 years of my lifestyle, and I still have the confidence in myself I can do it. I proved to myself I could do it by getting into my major.”
At Saturday’s Brain Cancer Walk, which starts at Seattle Center’s Founders Court at 9 a.m., Hopkins said he wants to encourage others to keep fighting and tell people that, as his neurosurgeon Dr. Gwinn often told him, “everything’s going to be okay.”
He has also been very active in raising funds for the cause, sending out flyers around campus, using social media to promote awareness, and setting a personal fundraising goal of $1,000 to go towards brain cancer research, patient care, and finding a cure.
“I want to get everyone in this area connected, because it is a big deal,” said Hopkins on his efforts to spread the word around campus. “I just hope to see more people there every year – it keeps on expanding. The goal is to see the money go up each year.”
Above all, Hopkins’ ordeal has taught him never to take anything in his life for granted.
“You never know when you’re going to pass (on), and when you do, you might as well be happy,” he said. “I try not to focus on the negatives in life. If today’s going to be my last day, let it be great.”
UW-Bothell is a four-year undergraduate and graduate campus, located at 18115 Campus Way NE in Bothell. The campus enrolls approximately 3,300 students and offers programs in Business, Arts-IAS, Engineering (CSS), Science/Technology and Nursing. For more information, visit the website at www.uwb.edu.
For more information on the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk, visit www.braincancerwalk.org.
Photo courtesy of Something Larger campaign