Female, 26, thought headaches were stress. She had brain cancer.

Female, 26, thought headaches were stress.  She had brain cancer.
  • Sunny Thukral, 26, thought her headaches and confusion were due to school stress, grief and a breakup.
  • He was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an incurable and aggressive brain cancer more common in older men.
  • Thukral is prepared to overcome adversity and her experience has influenced her career goals as a veterinarian.

First, Sunny Thukral’s grandfather died when she was not by his side. “That hit me really hard,” the 26-year-old said.

She then began her final year at UC Davis Veterinary School, which has been ranked number 1 in the world. “She was incredibly stressed because she wanted to do a good job,” she said.

Around the same time, Thukral went through a breakup, another “icing on the cake” of his accumulated emotional baggage, he said.

So when Thukral developed increasingly severe headaches in the spring of 2022 and began tripping over even the simplest calculations in school, he thought it was a physical manifestation of his pain and stress.

Maybe I just need a migraine medication, Thukral thought. At this point, about a month after her symptoms started, Tylenol wasn’t enough.

But when she arrived at the emergency room crying in pain and confusion, the doctors didn’t give her the medication. They did a CT scan, and soon after, they began preparing a hospital bed.

Within 48 hours, he was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastomaan aggressive and incurable brain cancer, telling most people with the disease that they only live a couple of years.

Shit, I’m going to die tomorrow, he thought. “Tell everyone you love them.”

Now, more than five months later, Thukral is exceeding doctors’ expectations. He shared his story with Insider to advocate for brain cancer research funding and encourage people not to accept a bleak prognosis as fate.

Thukral underwent surgery to remove most of the tumor.

Thukral’s parents traveled to Davis when she was first hospitalized and took her back to her hometown of Los Angeles for treatment. “I think I didn’t let go of my parents’ hands for weeks,” she said.

In Los Angeles, Thukral’s aunt, a radiology specialist, put her in touch with a neurosurgeon at UCLA.

Thukral was grateful that the doctor spoke to her like the aspiring medical professional that she is and chose him to operate. The doctor removed most of Thukral’s tumor in June. Had it all been removed, Thukral would have lost motor function on the right side.

Thukral then completed six weeks of radiation therapy, which had side effects, including hair loss.

Sunny Thukral makes a peace sign from her hospital bed after brain surgery

Sunny Thukral could not remove her entire brain tumor in surgery without compromising her function.

sunny thukral

Along the way, Thukral documented his experience as in tik tok and amassed more than 25,000 followers.

“It was a complete and utter shock from the start” that her story and morbid humor resonated with people, she said.

Thukral also said that posting about his personal life on social media is uncharacteristic, and that many of his initial posts were likely fueled by mania. a side effect of steroids she was going to tame the swelling of the brain.

“I was like, ‘Wow, I’m getting all this attention because of something terrible going on. I’ll keep posting about it. It makes me feel better,'” Thukral said. “My brain was working at a million miles a minute.”

while she is now away steroids and no longer posts often, Thukral said she doesn’t regret sharing her story as she is connected to other young people in similar situations.

Most glioblastoma patients are older men

Glioblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor, affecting just over 3 in 100,000 people, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

Symptoms can include persistent headaches, vision changes, slurred speech, loss of appetite, and mood swings.

the average age of diagnosis he is 64 years old, according to the AANS, and most of the patients are men. Doctors don’t know why some people develop glioblastoma, but some inherited conditions such as Lynch syndrome may increase the risk.

“Why did they put me in this box?” Thukral sometimes thinks. He had never had a serious health problem before.

About 40% of people with glioblastoma survive the first year of diagnosis and only 17% survive the second year. The way the cancer embeds itself in nearby brain tissue it is one of the reasons why it is so difficult to treat.

“Brain cancer is one of the most underfunded cancers,” Thukral said. “And there are no cures for the type of cancer I have.”

But she is determined to beat the odds and says her doctors suspect she will, given her age.

“If you’re given a diagnosis and a prognosis that you don’t like to hear, don’t listen,” Thukral said. “I’m not living my life on a two, three, four year timeline. I hope to get married anyway. I’m going to have kids. I’m going to watch them grow up. I’m going to manifest that to happen.”

Thukral’s tumor continues to shrink

These days, Thukral receives monthly oral chemotherapy and is trying a variety of complementary treatments, including herbal supplements and cannabis.

In Thukral’s last brain scan, his oncologist told him to keep doing what he was doing because his tumor kept shrinking.

“I don’t know what’s working and I don’t know what’s overkill, but as long as things continue to go well, I’m going to keep everything I have,” Thukral said.

Sunny Thukral poses with classmates from vet school

Sunny Thukral after the diagnosis with her colleagues from the veterinary school

sunny thukral

His main symptoms of living with what remains of the tumor are cognitive: he sometimes loses his train of thought or stumbles over words. He is taking a break from school until his linear thinking becomes more reliable, something he is working on improving with practice and brain supplements like those made from mushrooms.

But Thukral is determined to return and focus on in-home euthanasia services to help families euthanize pets in pain. She wants it to be a “comfortable, loving environment rather than a scary one.”

“This experience has definitely made me more in touch with the concept of death,” she said, “and what I would want, and what I feel like my dog ​​would want when he died, and what my grandfather wanted when he passed away.”

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