For this couple, starting a family turned into planning brain surgery

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Rebecca, Jeremy, and their son, Noah. (Paige Pfleger/WHYY)

Rebecca, Jeremy, and their son, Noah. (Paige Pfleger/WHYY)

About four years ago, Jeremy Hoffman, who was 30 at the time, told his wife Rebecca about some weird symptoms he was having — he felt a tingling on the left side of his body, he was getting headaches and he felt exhausted.

Rebecca, who is a resident at the hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, started to think of the worst case scenario:

“I think at one time, I remember sitting here at the table and being like ‘Do you know that I think this could be a tumor? I don’t want to scare you but I’m a little bit worried that this is the case.’ I don’t remember what your response was but it took me days to get up the nerve to say that’s what I thought it was,” Rebecca says.

“My response was probably just like you know too much, it’s not going to happen. Nobody thinks it’s going to happen to them,” Jeremy says.

Jeremy made a doctor’s appointment, and went in to get an MRI. A few floors above him in the same hospital, Rebecca was at work in her office. She says she couldn’t stop herself — she pulled up her husband’s brain scans on her computer and her fears were confirmed.

“I’m great at reading body CT scans, I’m not great at reading MRIs…but it wasn’t hard to see. You didn’t have to be good at reading MRIs of brains to see that there was a really big problem,” Rebecca says.

It was brain cancer. The crushing news was doubly hard because Rebecca and Jeremy, who are high school sweethearts, had been planning to start a family.

“For that first year it was also not only hard for me to think that my husband was going to die,” Rebecca says, “but also that I’d always thought that we were going to be parents.”

“I didn’t want to have a kid and two weeks later not be around,” Jeremy says.

Listen to Rebecca and Jeremy tell their full story above. 

Jeremy holds his son, Noah. The scar on the side of his head is from a surgery to remove cancer from his brain. (Courtesy of the Hoffman family)

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