One day before having surgery to remove a brain tumor that had tripled in size, Danny Efron’s mother died from pancreatic cancer.
In the following hours, Efron learned his own mass was cancerous.
Empowered by his family’s history of fatal cancers and an unwavering drive to survive, the now 34-year-old took matters into his own hands, trying any and every available and affordable treatment.
“I was having terrible headaches,” he said of the beginning of his path to a diagnosis. “I was on this medicine called Acutane, you know, for acne, and, so I attributed it to the medicine.”
He went to see a dermatologist to explain that sometimes his knee would buckle and he would lose vision in one eye, in addition to the headaches.
“Those headaches don’t sound like they’re from the medicine,” the dermatologist told him.
After ruling out the possibility of his ailments being caused by the drug, Efron was told to have an MRI.
“They discovered that I did have a large tumor in my parietal lobe.”
Opting for cannabis oil under the tongue, Efron decided against the recommended surgery. For two years, he said the headaches and swelling from the gumball-sized tumor subsided.
“Then, around a year ago, my mom, who’s my everything … she got sick.”
His symptoms returned.
A second MRI showed that the tumor had grown and become malignant.
“You have no choice but to do surgery,” he recalled the doctor’s plea, removing his fedora and pointing to the inches-long scar on the side of his shaved head.
In the biopsy of the removed tissue, it was discovered that Efron had Stage Three cancer in his corpus callosum.
“That was a part they were not able to operate on,” he said, explaining that it’s in the brain stem and connects the left and right halves.
Efron was told he had two to five years to live.
“I was like, there is no way,” he said. “I refuse to accept that. I’m young, I’m healthy, you know.”
“I feel fine.”
His mother had just passed away, and he returned from the hospital to a grocery cart full of life-given lemons cultivated by associated family drama and financial woes.
“I’m not one to sit back and sulk about things,” he said with a grin.
The social media director and writer started calling renowned doctors to see if he was a candidate for innovative treatments.
“You could very well cure yourself, sir” one told him.
There was no time to waste.
Aggressive radiation five times a week for six weeks, chemotherapy for four months, continued use of cannabis and a healthy lifestyle were part of that cure.
“I feel like I’ve already cured myself,” he said.
Today, Efron is finishing his final month of chemotherapy. Four months after its completion, he will go in for another MRI.
“They weren’t able to cut all of the tumor out, so there’s still a little bit of a mass in there, but there is nothing that lit up. So, no cancer,” he said of the most recent scan.
He attributes that success to never saying no to a potential remedy.
“I’m a writer, so I’m a researcher. I just got on it; I took it like my next subject, and I found out everything I could.”
Those close to him researched, too.
“I have a great support system in Vegas,” he said. “They were all sending me stuff through Facebook of all these new cures, and I didn’t brush any of them off.”
The post-radiation MRI baffled doctors, Efron said. “I couldn’t hope for better results,” one told him.
He never accepted the fact that his disease could kill him, but says the experience changed him.
“I look at life completely different,” he said. “All the little trivial stuff I used to worry about … it doesn’t matter.”
Efron advocates for the use of cannabis and is optimistic that its recreational use will pass in Nevada on the upcoming ballot. He also supports brain cancer awareness through fund-raising walks and by sharing his story.
“I had everything stacked against me. I could have crumbled up into a ball and said, ‘I’m done with life,’ but I refused to.”
Contact Kimberly De La Cruz at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-5244. Find her on Twitter: @KimberlyinLV