Category: Physical Therapy

Allen Roberson of Florida stands strong and is back to running after overcoming a rare brain tumor
After six brain surgeries to remove a rare mixed germ cell tumor, Allen Roberson of Florida has returned to cross-country running and obtained his certified medical assistant license.

Going the extra mile

October 25, 2023 Written by Amy Cherry | Photo Courtesy of Chris Boyle/The Daytona Beach-News Journal

Physical therapy students provide peer mentorship to Florida runner recovering from brain cancer

One February morning in 2018, Allen Roberson opened his eyes and realized he was seeing double. As a cross-country runner, he covered one of his glasses lenses with tape to get through a race. Not only did he get through it, but he also set a personal record. 

As his blurred vision persisted, doctors would ultimately make a shocking discovery. They found a rare mixed germ cell tumor in the pineal gland of his brain. Roberson would need six brain surgeries, several rounds of chemotherapy and dozens of radiation treatments, followed by a year of physical and cognitive therapies.  

“I’m here and thankful for the journey,” Roberson said. “There have been ups and downs, but it’s been amazing to live through this and share this story with others who need inspiration.”

Despite all he’s been through, Roberson is a ray of sunshine. He’s back to running and just became a certified medical assistant (CMA) — all with a little help from his friends who are 865 miles away on the University of Delaware’s STAR Campus

As part of a service-learning project, Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) students Adwaita Bhagwat, Sewina Yu and Kaitlyn Welsh volunteered to tutor Roberson on his journey to become a CMA — something he wanted to achieve to give back to the medical community. They connected on Zoom last year and were introduced through PT Associate Professor Ellen Wruble, who volunteers with the nonprofit Keep Punching, which supports patients, healthcare providers and researchers in their fight to prevent and eradicate brain cancer and minimize treatment-related side effects. 

“When I heard he was a brain cancer survivor, and he was willing to put in the effort to get his certification, I wanted to help him,” Bhagwat said. 

Wruble called the bond that blossomed a “mutual win.” 

"The bond formed between Allen and the DPT students is nothing short of inspirational," Wruble said. "Allen received social and academic support from the DPT students. In many ways, the tangible and intangible aspects of that relationship enhanced Allen's overall success and well-being. Allen showed them what daily courage looks like, and our PT students learned that when life throws you a curveball, you must pick yourself back up and try again.” 

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