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Marcus Weaver had an immediate question after his diagnosis of a brain tumor: When could he get back to jiu jitsu, the hobby he is so passionate about?

“It didn’t even enter my mind that things might not turn out all right,” he says. “I just decided this was temporary, and I was going to get through it.”

What began in January 2017 as an excruciating headache wound up with Marcus at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, where an MRI traced fluid buildup on his brain to a tumor blocking part of his brain stem. Although benign, the tumor had to come out—a potentially hazardous surgery given its location. His family rushed to his side as he considered what would come next.

Marcus’ neurosurgeon at UTHealth Neurosciences, Yoshua Esquenazi Levy, MD, explained that he would perform two procedures: one to drain the fluid from around Marcus’ brain—relieving the pain and pressure—and a second to actually remove the tumor.

“One of the things I loved about Dr. Esquenazi was his absolute confidence in his ability,” Marcus remembers. “It reassured me a great deal. When you have a brain tumor, you want a surgeon who clearly knows what he’s doing and has that kind of confidence.”

On January 25, a simple 45-minute procedure drained the fluid, providing Marcus immediate relief. A few weeks later came the major surgery. After carefully moving muscles and nerves out of the way, Esquenazi temporarily removed a section of skull to remove as much of the tumor as possible. 

“The surgery went very well, and I felt confident that Marcus would make a full recovery,” Esquenazi says.

Marcus spent the next two months at home. Throughout the process, Marcus’ family, church community, jiu jitsu gym, and employer gave him unwavering support. His wife, Whitney, cared for him every day during the recovery, and the two grew even closer as they spent two months virtually inseparable.

“The brain tumor was the best thing that ever happened to us,” Marcus says. “It changes your perspective on what is important.”

As he weaned off postsurgical medications, Marcus felt steadily better. Esquenazi released him from all medical restrictions on March 24, just two months after his surgery. He went back to his jiu jitsu gym the same day, and aside from a brief period of numbness on his skull, life returned to normal.

“It was like the whole thing never happened,” Marcus says. “It’s hard to believe that in the space of two months I had a brain tumor diagnosed and removed, and I recovered like the tumor was never even there. I haven’t experienced any pain, loss of motion, or any other effects. They actually did such a good job sewing up my head that nobody sees the scar unless I’m getting a haircut.”

Marcus continues to have regular check-ups with Esquenazi. He says his experience during treatment—from the receptionist to the nurses to Esquenazi—was exceptional, and it brought him a new sense of gratitude for living where he does.

“If you’re going to have a major medical issue, you want to be close to doctors like Esquenazi,” Marcus says. “Houston is the best place you can possibly be.”

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