Raising Awareness for an Invisible Illness

Major Steve Kuervers has dedicated his life to serving our country.

Born and raised in central British Columbia, Major Steve Kuervers joined the Canadian Forces in 1994 and was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA). As a reservist, he has a civilian job, and is employed as a defence contractor, specializing the use of Simulation for military training. He has trained multiple operational headquarters for tours in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Haiti, and Latvia.

In May 2013, he was promoted to Major, and in June 2013 he was deployed to Afghanistan, where he completed the Canadian train, advise and assist mission in northern Afghanistan. Major Kuervers received both a CJOC Commanders Commendation and an American Bronze Star at the completion of his tour in March 2014.

He was one of the last Canadian soldiers to leave Afghanistan, on the final flight out of Afghanistan. Soon after returning home, Steve got a splitting headache. Back in Edmonton, he realized something was really wrong. He continued to experience stabbing headaches, and the pain left him entirely unable to function. Doctors at his base sent him to the Brain Centre at the University of Alberta Hospital, fearing that the flight home may have caused a blood clot in his brain.

It turned out that the headaches were a symptom of stress, but doctors found something else on Steve’s CT scan – a rare brain tumor behind his right eye. This type of tumour is difficult to find and even more difficult to treat.

Thankfully, the team at the University of Alberta Hospital did find Steve’s tumour. But as it continued to grow, it had to go. He was in danger of losing his eyesight or even his life. He was given the choice between traditional brain surgery or the ground-breaking Gamma Knife.

Open brain surgery likely would have ended his military career and kept him in bed for 2-4 months. After talking with his doctors, including Dr. Keith Aronyk, Steve chose the Gamma Knife instead.

Gamma Knife surgery is the most advanced form of brain surgery, and uses highly focused beams of radiation from multiple angles to target one specific part of the brain. Patients are awake and aware throughout the procedure.

On the day of Steve’s procedure, he arrived to the hospital in the morning for preparation and he discussed the treatment with his doctors. While going over the treatment plan, Steve was able to understand the actions his doctors were taking by relating it to his military training, but instead of attacking a military target, they were attacking a tumour. Later that day he went through the procedure and was home – just hours later – in time to take the dog for a walk that night. Later that week, he was back to both his civilian and military jobs.

Today he is the Deputy Commanding Officer of The Loyal Edmonton Regiment, a Primary Reserve infantry unit of the Canadian Forces.

He is grateful for the excellent care he was able to receive here in Edmonton that has allowed him to live his life and continue in a career he loves.

“Thank you to everyone who donated to make the Gamma Knife a reality, and of course to all the medical professionals who were involved in my care. I wouldn’t be where I am today without that support.”

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