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Montana man shares how brain tumor discovery is 'a blessing'

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Posted at 4:08 PM, May 17, 2024

May is Brain Tumor Awareness month and one man from central Montana has a new outlook on life after discovering he had a brain tumor just two months ago.

The 35-year-old father of three, Taylor Honaker, hopes his story will help others.

"Some people may say well, jeez, gosh, how can you look at that like it’s a gift, but it’s just put so many things in my life into perspective," Honaker said with his family at Billings Clinic Wednesday.

As an insurance agent, Honaker knows anything could happen, but he didn't think anything would happen to him.

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Tionna and Taylor Honaker with their three girls.

“I thought I was the lucky one,” said Honaker, who lives in Toston, which is near Townsend.

A commute from Billings to Toston during a March snowstorm changed everything, when a gut feeling told him to pull over.

“Ended up turning around, and then was going around Exit 333 (on Interstate 90). Just all of a sudden out of nowhere, my vision, I just kind of lost my vision. I felt drunk,” Honaker said.

He managed to stop by a gas station in Livingston before he collapsed, and a good Samaritan called an ambulance.

“They said, well you had a tonic-clonic and I said, I was thinking gin and tonic, and I was like no, I don’t drink, there’s no way. And they said no, a tonic-clonic is a seizure,” recalled Honaker.

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Tionna and Taylor Honaker

After a second seizure on the way to a hospital in Livingston, he was flown by helicopter to Billings Clinic.

"There was so many moving parts, and everybody just came together flawlessly," Honaker added.

Doctors at Billings Clinic went to work immediately.

“Did an MRI with contrast, and they said, well you’ve got a tumor on your left parietal lobe that we can see and it’s about the same size and shape as a golf ball,” Honaker said.

"It was a long night. Just very, obviously worried. But I did have a lot of relief knowing he was where he needed to be," added Honaker's wife, Tionna.

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The golf ball sized tumor doctors found in Taylor's brain.

Billings Clinic neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Piedra and his team removed the tumor two weeks later.

"He stayed awake through 90% of the tumor resection, talking the whole time,” said Piedra.

But it's not the end of hospital visits for Honaker.

“To prevent reoccurrence or prolong the amount of time before reoccurrence happens, we treat with radiation and chemotherapy, so those will be the next stages of treatment for him,” Piedra said.

Despite the difficult news, Honaker couldn't have a better outlook on life.

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Billings Clinic neurosurgeon Dr. Mark Piedra.

“Taylor has been an ideal person to help treat because he is very positive,” added Piedra.

After witnessing Piedra operate on his own brain, Honaker experienced his own version of "The Overview Effect," a cognitive shift reported by some astronauts while viewing the Earth from space.

"Some might not say this is a gift or a blessing. But it's completely changed my life and it's completely changed my perspective. So I do consider it a gift, I do consider it a blessing," Honaker said.

Not only has he made lifestyle changes like diet and exercise, but he's writing a book. He's also reaching people all over the world with his new Facebook page, "The Overview Effect: Putting Everything into Perspective."

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Taylor with his daughter.

“Not only getting support, but being supportive to other people...People in their 80s and 90s reach out to me, just total strangers, and say hey, I’ve been following your story on Facebook and what you’re figuring out, I didn’t figure out until my 80s,” said Honaker.

His advice is to stay positive, go see your doctor as often as you can, and get life insurance.

“Me finding a life insurance policy with a diagnosis like I have is going to be next to impossible. It’s just one phone call, one car ride, one doctor’s visit and your whole life could be changed,” Honaker said.