Kim’s Story: Brain Metastasis

Share

In a poem she wrote for her creative writing class, Stephanie remembered it as the time when

“cancer was fighting back just as hard as my mom was fighting it off.”

Stephanie’s mother, Kim, was in her third battle with cancer. Kim had fought off breast cancer many years earlier after being diagnosed at the young age of 32. She had a lumpectomy, then a double mastectomy. She underwent reconstruction, chemotherapy and radiation. Stephanie was only 6 years old at the time, her younger brother only 3.

Five years later, Kim had to fight back again when she learned that the cancer had spread to her lung. Then, in early 2010, Kim and her family faced the worst scare of all. The cancer had spread to Kim’s brain. “I was getting headaches,” Kim said. “I thought it might be a sinus infection, but they discovered three metastatic tumors: a large one on my left side, near my motor area, and two smaller ones.”

“Brain surgery was needed, and the tears were flooding.
“We all had to be brave for my mom,” Stephanie wrote.

Under the care of specialists at the Brain Tumor Center, which is part of both the UC Neuroscience Institute and the UC Cancer Institute, Kim successfully fought back a third time. Ronald Warnick, MD, Medical Director of the Brain Tumor Center, and his team of neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, neuro-oncologists and radiologists developed a strategy for treating the three metastatic tumors.

First, Dr. Warnick addressed the large tumor near Kim’s motor area. Three types of brain scans (MRI, fMRI, and DTI) were fused into a 3D map of Kim’s brain and then entered into a surgical guidance computer, whose function is similar to a global positioning system. By revealing the tumor’s relationship to all of the functional centers in Kim’s brain, Dr. Warnick and his team were able to map out a safe pathway to the tumor and then remove it during surgery at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center.

Stephanie, who “prayed and prayed and prayed” in the waiting area with her family, knew immediately that the operation was a success when Dr. Warnick strode in, smiling broadly, and gave them all a hug.

“Brain tumors that were once unreachable, and therefore inoperable, are increasingly within our grasp,” says Dr. Warnick, Professor of Neurosurgery and Radiation Oncology and the John M. Tew Chair in Neurosurgical Oncology at UC. “With multiple types of brain scans and image guidance, we can now safely reach our destination – the tumor – and with new treatment tools, such as radiation seeds, we can increase the probability that the tumor will not return.”

In the second phase of her treatment for brain metastasis, Kim underwent stereotactic radiosurgery at the Precision Radiotherapy Center in West Chester, Ohio, while under the care of John Breneman, MD, Associate Director of the UC Brain Tumor Center and the Charles M. Barrett Professor of Radiation Oncology. Precise, high-dose beams of radiation were delivered over a period of five days to the two small tumors. The radiation worked by damaging the DNA inside the cancer cells. This made them unable to divide and reproduce and eventually caused them to die.

“In years gone by, brain metastasis represented a devastating phase of a patient’s disease progression,” Dr. Breneman says. “Advances in radiosurgery now allow us to routinely control brain metastases without performing invasive surgery. Patients go home shortly after their treatment, and they often comment that they have no sensation of having been treated.”

Today, Kim’s fight against cancer is just part of her everyday life. Under the careful watch of breast cancer specialist Elyse Lower, MD, she comes to the UC Health Barrett Cancer Center one day every other week for an intravenous treatment of Herceptin and Navelbine, two forms of chemotherapy. The routine is painless. When she is not visiting with a friend, Kim watches TV, reads a book or surfs the Web on her laptop. In addition, Kim takes one pill of Tykerb, another form of chemotherapy, every day.

“I will probably be on chemotherapy forever,” Kim says, with a smile. “It’s part of my life. I just live with it and accept it.”

Despite the ongoing chemotherapy, Kim is immersed in the lives and activities of her teenage children, supporting their academic goals and attending their athletic events. Kim herself raises awareness of breast cancer and metastatic cancer as a member of the Pink Ribbon Girls and as a team captain in the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Colerain Township.

One might even say that Kim is a local celebrity. She is a past winner of the Marvin Lewis Football Award, and she threw out the first pitch of the season at her son’s U14 baseball game in April. “My husband, children, family and friends are a huge support,” Kim says. “My son has no fear whatsoever about wearing pink.”

Stephanie, meanwhile, captures her family’s spirit best in the closing line of her poem:

“Cancer will not steal from anyone without a fight.”

– Cindy Starr

*   *   *

Hope Story Disclaimer – This story describes an individual patient’s experience. Because every person is unique, individual patients may respond to treatment in different ways. Outcomes are influenced by many factors and may vary from patient to patient.

 

This entry was posted in Hope Stories and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Print This Page
  • Make an Appointment: Schedule Now
  • UCNI Weekly Blog
  • Hope Stories

    • Jim’s Story: Pituitary Tumor

      Jim's Story: Pituitary Tumor One turn of events led to another, and so it was that Jim, and not his wife, took Jim’s 87-year-old father to his appointment with the dermatologist for the first time. And so it was that the dermatologist was not...
    • Brian’s Story: Meningioma

      Brian's Story: Meningioma “Carefree” is the word Brian uses to describe his life back then. He was 39 years old, happily married and the father of three children under the age of 5. “Life was busy, but that felt normal,” he says, reflecting. “The only...
    • Joe’s Story: Oligodendroglioma

      Joe's Story: Oligodendroglioma Joe calls it a miracle and a gift from “a higher power.” Others might call it a fortuitous turn of fate. Either way, Joe’s experience embodies a reversal of fortune that is both wonderful and startling. Once a man with...
    • Kevin’s Story: Acoustic Neuroma

      Kevin's Story: Acoustic Neuroma Kevin was in his mid-40s when he began to notice that he wasn’t hearing quite as well as in the past. But the change was gradual, so he didn’t worry about it. A few years went by, and the hearing...
    • Bob’s Story: Glioblastoma

      Bob's Story: Glioblastoma Bob’s story blends coincidence with collaboration and hope. The coincidence involves the 62-year-old West Chester man’s best buddy, “Jake,” a 165-pound...
    • Blake’s Story: Medulloblastoma

      Blake's Story: Medulloblastoma Blake knew he was in the right hands the moment he saw the surgeon’s wrists. Dr. John M. Tew, Blake’s neurosurgeon, was wearing one of Lance Armstrong’s yellow LiveStrong cancer bracelets. So was Blake. Dr. Tew, who was also sporting...
    • Kim’s Story: Brain Metastasis

      Kim's Story: Brain Metastasis In a poem she wrote for her creative writing class, Stephanie remembered it as the time when “cancer was fighting back just as hard as my mom was fighting it off.” Stephanie’s mother, Kim, was in her third battle with cancer. Kim...
    • Jerry’s Story: Spinal Tumor

      Jerry's Story: Spinal Tumor On an ordinary day in February 2009, John M. Tew, MD, got one of the true surprises of his career. He was seeing patients in his Mayfield Clinic office on the University of Cincinnati medical campus when an unexpected guest...
    • John’s Story: Glioblastoma

      John's Story: Glioblastoma John, a retired painter and carpenter, is a tall, solidly built man with a strong inclination toward getting things done. A former Vista volunteer who was equally comfortable running a food co-op in an underserved neighborhood or standing near the...
    • Sandra’s Story Glioma

      Sandra's Story Glioma Sandra (Sandy) is a smiling, breathing reminder that hope exists for patients with even the most challenging type of brain tumors. Nine years ago, when Sandy was first told that she had six months to live, she stared back blankly...
    • Lynne’s Story: Brain Metastasis

      Lynne's Story: Brain Metastasis Semiretired and working part-time at a restaurant, Lynne knew something was amiss when she looked at the cash register and then struggled to make her hands produce the correct amount of change. Could she have suffered a stroke? Lynne pushed the...
    • Dr. Mike’s Story: Glioblastoma

      Dr. Mike's Story: Glioblastoma Sixteen months after receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer, Dr. Michael Wood continues to attack his disease with wellness. In addition to surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and strong family support, the 61-year-old Cincinnati otolaryngologist has worked hard to provide his own...
    • Doc’s Story: Metastatic Brain Tumors

      Doc’s Story: Metastatic Brain Tumors First there were headaches. Bad ones. Migraines, probably. Then, one day in mid-May, 2010, his knee, foot and arm went numb on his left side. Darrell “Doc” Rodgers, the 700WLW radio personality, feared he was having a stroke. In the emergency...