Brain tumor didn't dim this candle

His hair will grow back, but the giant scar on Isaac Boekelheide's head always will remind the Sequim High School senior that he barely escaped death.

Boekelheide, son of Barbara and Bob Boekelheide, didn't feel right earlier this month. Thanks to his gut feeling that something serious was wrong and his parents' fast action, Boekelheide, 18, is more than a death statistic.

He's a brain tumor survivor.

Abnormal symptoms

A hardworking student and "good" son, Isaac isn't one to cry wolf, agreed his parents.

So when he called his mother from school to have her pick him up after rehearsing for the operetta "Beauty and the Beast," saying he was dizzy and having trouble walking straight, she didn't waste any time.

"When he said, 'Mom, I need to go get this checked,' I knew something was going on," she said.

Although he knew something was wrong, he had no idea how "wrong" his condition was.

"It started Friday when I was saying goodbye to my friends for the weekend and could only walk to the left on the way to my car," he said.

"It was a weird feeling but got better once I was in my car."

Dismissing it as vertigo, he put the incident out of his mind until Monday, when symptoms returned even stronger, accompanied by a headache.

"I was on my way to work on a literature paper after school and kept veering to the left and running into the building," he said.

"Then, after I finished the paper, I felt nauseous."

Still ignoring the warning signs, he went to a rehearsal for the operetta in which he plays Lumiere, the candlestick.

Halfway through dress rehearsal for the musical - originally scheduled to open May 1 - he no longer could pretend he was OK. Isaac knew his dizziness and inability to walk straight weren't just vertigo.

A trip to the

emergency room

After being rushed to Olympic Medical Center by his mother on April 6 and receiving a CAT scan, he was diagnosed as having a fluid-filled sac on the right side of his brain, on his cerebellum - the part of the brain at the back of the skull that coordinates and regulates muscular activity.

The attending doctor recommended transporting

him to the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle via ambulance. He arrived around 1:30 the next morning.

"It was all so sudden," he said.

"When we heard I had to get a CAT scan and then there was something on my cerebellum, my first thought was, 'Will I still be able to do the play?'"

Upon further testing, it was discovered that inside the cyst that was pushing against his cerebellum was a small but dangerous tumor.

The doctor's orders: Brain surgery.

"At that moment we took a deep breath and prayed," his mother said.

"We knew we were not in control of the situation any longer."

As their son was wheeled away for surgery the next day, she said that she was scared but knew he was in good hands.

"It was really scary, but I just took the moment as it came and hoped for the best," she said.

"Thanks to the latest technology and great doctors, Isaac was in the best care."

Making a

full recovery

After a full day's rest, he was released from the hospital April 10 and has returned to school part time.

"His prognosis at this point is very good," his mother said.

"Hopefully, he will have a normal life. He has such a bright future ahead of him."

Aside from the shaved head and huge scar, it's hard to tell that he underwent major surgery two weeks ago.

He's walking, talking and "texting" as usual and has regained almost full mobility.

"It's been a progression of blessings," his mother said. "We feel like we've been taken care of by everyone's fabulous thoughts, prayers, wishes and good intentions."

Although Isaac realizes now just how dangerous his condition was, surgery wasn't the worst part, he said.

"The worst thing about it all was the IV in the ambulance. It took four tries."

Pathology results show-ed, as the doctor suspected, Isaac's tumor was benign. He will continue to have an MRI every three months for the next year and then once a year after that to monitor his brain.

Isaac has been accepted into Western Washington University's honors and music programs and will start college this fall.

'Beauty and the Beast': A don't-miss event

Wishing Isaac a full recovery, Christy Rutherford, "Beauty and the Beast" director, postponed the 2009 Sequim High School operetta one week.

"He is so good - one of our best characters," she said. "Nobody wanted to replace him because nobody can do it like Isaac can."

Instead of starting May 1 and offering six performances over three weekends, the play will premier May 8 with the same number of shows over a two-week period.

"He wants to do the show with all his heart and it wouldn't be fair to give (the part) away if he can come back and do it," Rutherford said.

Ashley Miller can be reached at ashleyo@

'The most beautiful

love story ever told'

What: 2009 Sequim High School operetta, "Beauty and the Beast"

When: 7 p.m. May 8-9, 14-16 and 2 p.m. May 16

Where: Sequim High School performing arts center, 601 N. Sequim Ave.

Tickets: $10 general admission; $8 children, senior citizens and students with ASB cards; and $45 "family package." Available at Pacific Mist Books, 121 W. Washington St.; Frick Drug, 609 W. Washington St.; and at the door.

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