Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Young and Dying: Veterans Are Getting Brain Cancer and Struggling to Get Benefits


The mesh cap that Noah Feehan wore nearly all day, every day, contained 18 terminals that delivered electrical pulses to his brain and the deadly tumor growing inside it.

Diagnosed with a form of cancer called glioblastoma in December 2020, Feehan, a 38-year-old Minnesota Air National Guard master sergeant, had vowed to do whatever it took to battle his illness even if it meant that, in addition to radiation and chemotherapy, he would wear the device 18 hours a day, sometimes enduring shocks so painful they forced him to his knees.

But the treatment triggered more than momentary pain. He stopped eating -- and smiling.

At a baseball game last summer, Noah’s wife of 13 years leaned in and asked him whether he wanted to take off the cap permanently, even if it meant abandoning an experimental weapon on which the family’s hopes rested.

"He goes, 'Can I?'" Jenny Feehan said. “I said, ‘Of course, you can.' I never saw him happier. It was like a light switch went on."

No one knows for certain why Feehan, who serves as an avionics technician, developed a rare brain cancer with an average life expectancy of 12 to 18 months that usually afflicts those in their 60s or older.


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