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May 20th, 2011
08:08 AM ET

Human Factor: After the tumor, raising the cell phone issue

In the Human Factor, we profile survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship –- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed.   This week Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces us to real estate agent Alan Marks. He's a man  whose determination helped him to overcome his deficits from brain cancer and become one of the leading advocates for cell phone safety. Here is his story in his own words.

In the summer of 2008, I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor after suffering a grand mal seizure in the middle of the night.  I had a craniotomy and a golf ball sized tumor was removed.

Of course I was angry but I also needed to know why.  Why did this happen to me?  My medical records were sent to doctors and scientists around the world and they said they believed my brain tumor was directly attributable to my long -term extensive use of my cellular phone.  I then heard stories of many brain tumor patients who were in the same situation as me, many much younger and many no longer alive.

I am in real estate development and sales, and I used a cell phone for over 20 years for about 10,000 lifetime hours.  I always held my phone to my right ear and the tumor was on the right side of my brain, slightly in front of my ear. Ironically, the very same thing that I used to aid me in my business destroyed my business.  I had always been a top producer in my company and it all came to a halt once the tumor was diagnosed.  Then, the long recovery period started.

Once I had the surgery, my family and I were in a financial and emotional crisis.  I had no choice but to get back to work.  I guess it is just in my makeup to be a fighter.  When I run into a wall in life, I always bounce off and then go in another direction.  Two days after being home from the hospital I was out walking in the neighborhood.  I haven’t stopped moving forward since then.

After two long years of cognitive rehabilitation and learning ways to cope with my deficits, I feel I am back.  However, I live with the fear that my cancer will return, but I will fight that battle when it comes.

I will never hold another cell phone to my head, and I encourage others to take the necessary precautions.  Ellie, my wife of over 30 years, has turned her hurt and anger over my illness into advocacy. We have worked closely with Dr. Devra Davis, president of the Environmental Health Trust, since my diagnosis and she is an incredible leader in this critical health issue and crusade.

Any cell phone user is blessed to have her fighting this battle. Ellie and my oldest son, Zack, have created the California Brain Tumor Association in an effort to inform others of the potential dangers of cell phone radiation.

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Filed under: Brain • Cell Phones • Human Factor

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About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.