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Brain tumor survivor shares his experience at Stanford: 'I felt like I was in the best hands possible' 

March 4, 2022 - By Dian Le

Photo courtesy of Rob Henslin

In April 2021, Rob Henslin experienced a worrying episode: he had migraine-like symptoms and mental confusion. When he spoke, a seemingly random mix of words came out of his mouth. Rob later learned this symptom is called schizophasia, or word salad. "I was thinking clearly in my head, but I couldn't make the words come out correctly," he recalled.

After his symptoms surfaced for a second time, Rob landed in the emergency room, where his care team ordered a brain imaging scan to rule out an aneurysm. His doctor came in with the news: Rob didn't have a brain bleed, but the scan detected a mass in his brain. "It was a terrible moment where my heart sank and I realized, wait a minute, a mass is a tumor," Rob said.

Rob, who lives in Redding, CA, asked for a referral to Stanford Medicine, where he met with neurosurgeon Gordon Li, MD. Together, they decided on a "wait and watch" approach: to actively monitor the tumor, in order to avoid unnecessary treatments that may cause considerable side effects. 

Five months later, in September 2021, Rob went in for a follow-up MRI. The results showed that the tumor, located on Rob's left parietal lobe, had grown aggressively—several millimeters in all directions—and it was time to remove it. 

Undergoing brain tumor removal

Rob's brain tumor surgery occurred on September 29, 2021. Dr. Li had initially estimated that he could remove at least 90% of Rob's brain tumor. The last 10%, according to Dr. Li, was unknown because there was a blood vessel involved at the tumor site, and part of the tumor was wrapped around that vessel. However, during surgery, Dr. Li was able to navigate the blood vessel successfully, and removed the entire tumor.

Rob chose Dr. Li because of his expertise in removing brain tumors, and because he felt a good rapport with him. "I felt like he not only listened to where I was coming from," he said, "he was carefully considering what I was saying."

As a Stanford Brain Tumor Center neurosurgeon, Dr. Li has significant experience with many kinds of brain tumors; his expertise includes treatments and surgeries for gliomas, meningiomas, and schwannomas, among others. 

Neutrophil's Guide to Stem Cell Transplants for Kids was written and illustrated by Rob

A history of excellent care at Stanford

Rob has a long history of getting care at Stanford. He is a leukemia survivor who received a stem cell transplant under the care of Dr. Robert Negrin in 2009 at Stanford. 

Inspired by his experience, Rob, who is a graphic designer and illustrator, recently wrote and illustrated an age-appropriate book to help young children facing stem cell transplant called Neutrophil's Guide to Stem Cell Transplants for Kids

From a leukemia recurrence, to a stem cell transplant, to facing a brain tumor with Dr. Li, Rob has always felt that, at Stanford, he was in the best hands possible. He also has the highest praise for the nurses he's met at Stanford Medicine. 

"Every one of them, I believe, are angels sent to earth directly by God," he said. "I have always adored all of them."

Request an appointment at Stanford Brain Tumor Center by calling 650-497-7777 or emailing BrainTumorCenter@stanfordhealthcare.org. More information about Stanford Brain Tumor Center can be found online

Stanford Brain Tumor Center