It’s All in Her Head

by Haley Nelson

When Braylan Covol blew out the candles on his birthday cake, ready to dive into his first slice, his mother, Jamie Barbarich, took his head in her hands. She tried to wrap her head around the fact that he was already ten years old.

Layton Covol leans in to give his mother, Jamie Barbarich, a peanut buttery kiss to apologize for being rowdy at dinner time. His loud behavior worsens Barbarich’s headaches caused by a brain tumor she has been battling for almost 10 years.

“It makes me feel old. That’s good,” she said. Just nine years and nine months earlier, Jamie was told she would not see her three-month-old son, Braylan, turn one.

In July of 2006, Jamie woke up with pins and needles in her right arm and leg, prompting her to go to the emergency room. She called Brian Covol, her husband, to tell him something was wrong and he replied, “It’s not like you have a brain tumor.” Shortly after, Jamie was given an MRI. She had a brain tumor the size of a Christmas orange compressing the entire left side of her brain.

Jamie Barbarich reaches out her arms to show the nurse her veins before her MRI at the Geisinger Gray’s Woods medical center. Her blood work came up suspicious the previous week so they called her in for a scan. She is still awaiting the results.

Nearly ten years later, after many procedures and treatments, and unable to have the cancer removed completely, Jamie continues to fight any way she can. But doesn’t let cancer control her life. She continues to do the work she loves teaching a class of special needs kids at Mount Nittany Elementary School and she spends as much time as possible with her husband and two sons.

Jamie rubs her eyes as she waits for her husband, Brian, to finish playing video games with their son, Layton, so he can squeeze her head to ease the pain of her headache. In the evenings, Jamie’s headaches worsen to the point that her eyes water so she uses an ice pack and pressure for relief.

Jamie has defied overwhelming odds with an unwavering positive attitude. She has taught herself how to walk again after an operation and ignores her chronic headaches in order to have a normal life.

“We can’t control what happens to our family, but we can control our attitude.”

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