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Sharp Health News

A family facing brain cancer together

May 24, 2017

Joe and Claudia Whelpley are closer than they’ve ever been, after Claudia helped Joe through cancer treatment at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.

Claudia and Joe Whelpley. Joe received treatment for brain cancer at the Barnhart Cancer Center at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.

In October 2016, South Bay resident Joe Whelpley was diagnosed with stage 2 brain cancer.

“It was definitely the scariest Halloween I’ve ever experienced, and my nightmare hasn’t ended since then,” says Joe. “My whole life has been about thinking and following steps, but since my diagnosis, I’ve noticed easy tasks, like following a recipe in the kitchen, are more difficult for me.”

He first began experiencing headaches, and then noticed there were certain signs and symptoms suggesting that something was happening with his body that hadn’t happened before. Soon those headaches turned more severe and led to temporary eyesight problems as well. Once those issues became more consistent, his wife Claudia knew he needed to speak with a doctor.

“I’ve always followed the rule to either make sure that it’s nothing, or find out that it’s something,” explains Claudia. “I’m very protective of my husband and our two children, so I wanted to make sure it wasn’t anything serious.”

Fortunately for Joe, and because he listened to his body, the tumor in his brain was caught at an early stage and treatment at the Douglas & Nancy Barnhart Cancer Center at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center began soon after. Part of the Laurel Amtower Cancer Institute and Neuro-Oncology Center, the Barnhart Cancer Center offers patients facing brain or spinal cancer the most advanced neuro-oncology technology, research and care.

Signs and symptoms of brain cancer include:

  • New onset or change in pattern of headaches
  • Headaches that gradually become more frequent and severe
  • Unexplained nausea or vomiting
  • Blurred vision, double vision or loss of peripheral vision
  • Confusion in everyday activities
  • Speech difficulties
  • Difficulty with balance

Now finished with radiation therapy as part one of his treatment plan, Joe is beginning chemotherapy; his wife Claudia has been with him every step of this journey.

“I love Joe with my whole heart and have since the day we met 20 years ago. We’re romantics — we even got married on Valentine’s Day,” says Claudia. “Through this experience, we’ve become even closer than ever before, and together we have learned to be patient, separate ourselves from the medical aspect of our lives when we can, and try do something fun with our children and each other every day. We’ve lived more now than we ever have.”

For the news media: To talk with Joe and Claudia Whelpley about Brain Cancer Awareness Month for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at

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