By Sheila Phibbs
The Haldimand Press
CANFIELD—“It’s a nightmare.” That’s how Carol Wells describes the medical ordeal her daughter, Jessica Foreman, and her family have endured for more than a year.
After months of appointments, tests, debilitating symptoms, visits to emergency, multiple surgeries, and ongoing treatments, there is a call for help to support the Foreman family as Jessica continues the fight of her life.
Jessica’s health concerns began in July of 2021 when she experienced facial paralysis. The initial diagnosis was Bell’s palsy, but the condition did not respond to the usual therapies. By December, Jessica had difficulty with her speech; an MRI in January 2022 revealed what appeared to be an acoustic neuroma, a serious but benign brain tumour.
Jessica met with a surgeon to discuss the risky surgery that involves cutting through facial tissue to remove the tumor. The procedure was to take place in two months. Wells shares that they did not hear from the surgeon again and Jessica’s symptoms progressed – difficulty talking and swallowing – and were becoming “aggravated”.
Wells says, “Every week it seemed like something else cropped up – vomiting, slurred speech, not being able to walk.”
The family continued to research surgeons and, when necessary, Jessica – who lives in Canfield – was taken to emergency in Toronto. Wells adds, “All they could do was increase dexamethasone. That was the treatment through April and May.”
A Toronto neurosurgeon met with Jessica but admitted he wasn’t the doctor to perform surgery in this case. According to Wells, he didn’t actually believe the tumour was an acoustic neuroma. Meanwhile, Jessica’s family doctor got in touch with the original surgeon in Hamilton and learned that he wouldn’t do the surgery until next year, and they were later informed that Jessica had been removed as a patient.
The family finally found a doctor at Toronto’s Western Hospital who performed the required surgery on June 20. Jessica spent 19 days in the step-down unit due to post-op complications. The doctor suggested that the tumour was not following the pathology of an acoustic neuroma. After Jessica was released Wells says, “She did well at home for two weeks then started having balance issues. She went to emergency at Hamilton General and a CAT scan showed the tumour had returned bigger than before.”
A second operation took place at Western Hospital on August 19. Jessica was closely monitored for complications, including brain bleeds. There was a possibility that cancer was the cause of the bleeding. At home, Jessica still had difficulty walking and it was discovered that the tumour had re-grown. Rather than surgery, radiation at Juravinski Hospital was recommended for what had proven to be a malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumour, which Wells describes as “very aggressive.”
With radiation as the main treatment, Jessica still had trouble walking and suffered from hydrocephalus – fluid accumulating in the brain. A shunt was put in her brain on September 13. Wells’ concern for her daughter is evident as she says, “Her pain level is uncontrollable. The shunt activated the facial nerve. We are doing everything we can to help with her pain.”
Adding to the strain is the challenge of navigating the medical system post-COVID. Wells is a dental hygienist, lecturer, and instructor; with her background and knowledge of healthcare, she attends Jessica’s appointments and hospital visits to advocate for her daughter. She says, “I couldn’t imagine somebody going through this without any medical knowledge.”
At home, Jessica’s husband, Cory, has been on leave from work since April to care for their young daughters, Mackenzie, 6, and Lorelai, 3. Jessica has not been able to work since January. This, compounded by ongoing expenses including travel to appointments, accommodations during hospital stays, and treatments not covered by OHIP, prompted Jessica’s cousin, Holly Soulier, to organize a GoFundMe campaign to support the family.
Soulier says, “I knew right away they were going to need help. We could see her health deteriorating before our eyes. There is a lot of support from people who love her and Cory. Their story is heartbreaking.”
Soulier describes her cousin as “that one who you know is in your corner. She gives more than she gets. She’s one of the best people I know.”
The importance of family is strong for Jessica and Cory. According to Soulier, “They live for their children.” Both parents not working is a financial stress and Soulier acknowledges that they didn’t realize all the added expenses when the fundraising effort began. She says, “You just can’t fathom something like this happening to someone you love.”
The family is overwhelmed by the response, especially from people they don’t even know. Soulier says, “It gives you a bit of hope; the ways they are able to help is amazing.”
Wells shares those feelings knowing the financial support will benefit Jessica, Cory, and their girls. She says, “People’s generosity is overwhelming. Every cent is well used…. We’re very grateful for it.”
As Wells reflects on this “nightmare” she says, “I hope nobody ever has to go through this, especially navigating the medical system…. I’m micro-managing my daughter’s healthcare. It shouldn’t be like that.”
As family and friends come together to support the Jessica and Cory Foreman and their daughters, Soulier says, “We have to ask for help or she’s going to suffer. It’s a scary chapter that we thought would be closed. The more we can help, the less scary we can make it.”
To support the GoFundMe campaign visit
As of October 17, over $25,000 had been raised for the family.