Sep 16 2012

Survivor Spotlight – Teri Koehler

Teri Koehler – By SCTA Volunteer Paul Knipler

The current Spotlight personality is a woman with not only an incredible SCT story but an equally incredible desire to live life to the fullest and she certainly has done her best to do just that with the help of a loving family and friends.

Teri Koehler’s SCT journey began just as she was newly married to her high school sweetheart, Chet and looking forward to beginning her life as she puts it “as an adult.” Yet on July 31, 1985, Teri was going into the operating room for an SCT operation while her new husband Chet, her parents Marti and Bob Bender, her three younger sisters, her Mother and Father In-law and many loving friends waited for news of the outcome of that operation. At this time, Teri remembered, there were no MRI’s so there was more than some uncertainty as to the outcome. After 6 hours of surgery, a tumor was excised from L1 to the filum terminale. The pathology of the tumor was determined to be a myxopapillary ependymoma. After several months of recovery, Teri resumed her life as normal as possible with a right foot drop and some right leg numbness. But this was just the beginning.

In 1989, after a follow up MRI, a reoccurrence of her tumor was discovered and a surgery was scheduled at the University of California San Francisco. This time laminectomies were performed from T-12 to L-4 and a tumor measuring 6x3x2 cm was removed and again diagnosed as a “recurrent myxopapillary ependymoma.” After returning home to Las Vegas, Teri began 6 weeks of radiation treatment in January 1990.

Teri’s journey was now about being a Mom and raising two wonderful boys, Brett and Brandon, spending quality time with her husband Chet and getting back into the workplace first as a dental hygenist and then eventually joining Chet in the family financial planning business. Yearly visits with her neurosurgeon as well as follow up lumbar MRI’s were very regular until May of 2005 when, as Teri describes it, “my love-hate relationship with my ependymoma began again.”

After experiencing shoulder pain and shortness of breath, an MRI was ordered on her thoracic area of the spine and once again a tumor was confirmed. Teri had to endure yet another surgery on June 2, 2005. Laminectomies were performed on T2 – T-5. During this surgery, numerous tumors were found on the spinal cord and the Dr. described her spinal cord as “sugar coated with tumors”. While a few of the larger tumors were removed, the areas with smaller tumors were left untouched. She returned home for another 6 weeks of radiation treatments.

Today, after 25 years of marriage with the “love of her life” Chet, after raising her two sons Brett and Brandon now 20 and 16 respectively, and being “mother” to three beautiful dogs, Teri lives life to the fullest and continues to manage her SCT’s with regular follow up MRI’s as determined by her neurosurgeon. While her life was unfolding, Teri always had a wish list of things she would like to do or accomplish in her life and it is here that her desire to live life to the fullest really took off.

In September 2008, Teri and her Mother Marti took a trip of a lifetime to Africa visiting South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana. During her trip, Teri was able to cross off her “have to see” top 5 list; the Leopard, African Elephant, Rhinoceros, Water Buffalo and Lion (as the picture attests). YIKES! Teri believes this was truly a trip of a lifetime, something to always remember and cherish.

Teri discovered the SCTA website several years ago and has become in her own words an “SCTA junkie”. She recently wrote a letter to a friend battling cancer and would like to share it with all her SCTA friends:


A letter of Sunshine and Hope

Today is a glorious day, and I know in your heart the sun is shining bright and

the world is full of many great moments.

It’s a friend like you that has been such an inspiration to my family and me.

Watching the greatness of your smile and the way you approach life with such

determination is what everyone would hope for in himself or herself.

It’s not the large battles we face in our lives that really matter or make the person, as

much as the everyday pleasures and memories we make, and having such a

wonderful friend like you, has filled many days with sunbeams, rainbows and smiles!

Enjoy another day, another sunset, a slobbery kiss from the dog, or a hug from your

loved ones and remember that greatness comes in the small things that surround us,

and that means YOU; you’re great in many ways!

I have always said that I would have never changed the cards I was dealt in life

because they are the reason I am the person you see today. Live your dreams, and if

you can’t live them in person live them through others or experience them with

books, music or video, just live………

After 3 surgeries, 28 and counting MRI’s and countless Doctor visits, Teri has chosen to live life to the fullest and her trip to Africa with her Mom was the culmination of her desire to do just that……….Teri Koehler, Wife, Mother and world traveler, is a wonderful power of example to all SCT survivors. Thank you, Teri!