10/28/2013 08:37 EDT | Updated 12/28/2013 05:12 EST

I've Been There -- But It's Not the Same for Everyone

As a brain tumour survivor I often find myself talking to others about the disease, sharing information and letting them know that just like Arnold Schwarzenegger's infamous statement in Kindergarten Cop, a headache does not equal a brain tumour.

While ongoing, severe headaches can be a symptom of a brain tumour, there are a variety of other common warnings that are just as critical for everyone to be aware of. These include:

• personality changes,

• morning nausea or vomiting,

• visual disturbance such as double or blurred vision,

• weakness or paralysis,

• dizziness or unsteadiness,

• hearing impairment.

For me, my predominant symptom was double vision, which I blamed on new contact lenses. This symptom ultimately led to my diagnosis but looking back I remember both headaches and personality changes, things I and my family chalked up to being in my final year of high school - but now we know that was not the case.

I've met lots of families over the years who talk about various combinations of the symptoms above that indicated they or their loved one needed help.

Raising awareness about these symptoms is needed to help patients reach a diagnosis as soon as possible.

As I reflect back on Brain Tumour Awareness Month and all the things happening across this country, I can't help but think this might be my most important post yet. Awareness of symptoms so that everyone can act as their best advocate for their best care is critical. If just one person reads about these symptoms and is able to take action for their health and wellbeing, I'll count that as success.

And for anyone who has been diagnosed, you are not alone. There's a large, supportive community of those of us who have been affected. Find us at

Start the conversation today.