David Heyting is a regular 36-year-old guy who spends his time with his wife and two boys, ages 6 and 8.
He works in Kirkland as a certified public accountant, lives in Snoqualmie, enjoys hiking and helping others through the Rotary Club of Kirkland Downtown.
But just two years ago Heyting’s life changed when he underwent brain surgery to remove a golf-ball-size tumor from his right frontal lobe.
“I think looking back I was having some mood issues but I never ever would have thought I had [a brain tumor] at the time,” Heyting said. “A lot of people get headaches and stuff like that, I had none of that.”
As part of their many charitable endeavors, the Rotary Club of Kirkland Downtown will put on their first A capella Concert to raise money for the Chris Elliott Fund, a local nonprofit dedicated to ending brain cancer. But having supported Heyting in the past at the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk, last year and this past September, members of the rotary felt more could be done and the A capella Concert fundraiser was born.
“[The] rotary’s motto is ‘service above self’ and with David right in our own club and being part of the family, it seemed right to support him and his family in his treatment and the Chris Elliott Fund seemed the perfect avenue to do that,” said Vince Armfield, the event co-organizer and Rotary Club of Kirkland Downtown member, who worked with Steve Eggerman to come up with the idea in March.
Armfield said the rotary’s goal is to raise $6,000 through ticket sales.
Heyting plans to say a few words before a capella groups Divisi and On The Rocks from the University of Oregon and Furmata and SeaNote from the University of Washington take the reins.
Although Heyting will be the first to say his goal is to maintain regular daily life, the advocacy he’s done wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t had a life-changing experience one November day.
In November 2011, at a Starbucks in Seattle’s University Village, Heyting had his first grand mal seizure. Thankfully, he said, he was rushed to the University of Washington Medical Center, which was about a mile away.
After an MRI scan, doctors told Heyting he had a Oligodendroglioma tumor, which his family later named Goliath from “David and Goliath.” And his sister created www.defeatgoliath.org to raise funds for awareness and brain cancer research.
“Once I started having seizures, it was a question of whether it was safe to be home with just my boys,” Heyting said. “And so, I took my older son and wrote out all of my doctor’s information and put a spot on the fridge and we had to go through calling 911. [I said,] ‘if dad’s home and he has a seizure, here’s what you have to do,’ which was honestly one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.”
Heyting was put on anti-seizure medication and suffered one more seizure before he was scheduled to have brain surgery just two weeks after his first seizure.
“I know going into surgery, probably my biggest fear was that I would forget everything I knew – I’d become a different person,” Heyting said. “And one of the risks that I had, based on where [the tumor was] at was that I would be quasi-paralyzed permanently or for a period of time.”
When Heyting awoke, he couldn’t open and close his left hand but that soon subsided. He started oral chemotherapy, which would last one year, took a month off of work and relied on friends and family members to drive him places when he resumed his job with Hersman Serles Almond PLLC.
Heyting now lives his life in most of the same ways he did before “Goliath,” except now he’s an advocate for brain cancer awareness.
“Honestly, before this I didn’t know anything about [brain cancer],” Heyting said. “I didn’t really know anybody who had it and then after going through it, you realize it’s very underfunded, and unfortunately, one of the downsides is most people who have it die pretty quickly.”
He said he started working with the Chris Elliott Fund because he felt he should have a purpose other than having brain cancer. Heyting said he wanted to help other people because “it’s such a scary proposition” to be diagnosed with brain cancer because there’s not a lot of answers.
According to Heyting, only 20 percent of people with brain cancer live five years. His prognosis is 10-plus years, he says.
“If you think you’re gonna live, then I think your odds are greater that you are, versus planning to die,” Heyting said. “I’m not going to plan to die, I’m going to plan to live. That’s kind of what my goal has been.”
Certain decisions, such as getting genetic testing done on his tumor tissue to decide what type of treatment to do and forgoing radiation treatment because of longterm effects, have aligned with his choice to plan for life.
“I think I was pretty determined to not just sit there and feel sorry for myself,” said Heyting, adding he went on a walk right after surgery. “There’s a few things I look at differently, but at the same time, no I’m not doing a huge bucket list … “
But underneath the determination, Heyting said there’s still some paranoia about his tumor, which doctors could not fully remove because a small part is still attached to his brain.
“That’s one of the crazy things, if anything happens, like if I get a headache one day, just normal stuff, I might get a slight cold – do I have a cold or a headache or is the brain tumor doing something?” Heyting said. “There’s a little bit of paranoia out there … but I’m fine, I’m good, you’ve just got to move past it because you can’t be afraid of everything.”
To help fight brain cancer, attend the Rotary Club of Kirkland Downtown’s first A capella Concert at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11 at the Lake Washington High School Performing Arts Center. Adult tickets can be purchased for $25 and $15 for student tickets at www.rckd.org. Tickets at the door will be $35 for adults and $25 for students.
For more information or to donate toward brain cancer research, visit www.chriselliottfund.org.