About 4:30 PM PST I received a call from my primary care physician Dr. Robert C. Hayes. I knew right away that this was not normal. I’ve never received a call from him personally in the 4-5 years that I’ve been seeing him. Usually it’s just a nurse or a receptionist. I could tell in his voice that he was very concerned, but he didn’t beat around the bush at all. “The pathology came back, its been verified by 2 pathologists, and is being sent to the Mayo Clinic for further testing, but you have a Glioblastoma, and I don’t want you to wait around for 3-4 weeks for confirmation. You need to get on this RIGHT AWAY” he continued on that “I have had several patients that have lived for 3-5 years with this condition.” He noted that most do not survive this long, but he said that I’m otherwise healthy, and I’m right at the age where under 50 means longer survival, and over 50 decreases life expectancy. I was diagnosed on October 8th, my 50th birthday!
All things being equal, median life expectancy with out treatment is about 6 months, with treatment, which consists of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, is 14.5 months. Median survival rate is defined as 1/2 of patients living longer, and 1/2 of patients living shorter lives. I have also noted that in my MRI-Spec that there is a necrotic center mass in the tumor, and that is a major factor in a shorter life span. That is, in fact, the difference between a Grade III and a Grade IV. Often Grade III will return as a Grade IV in a much more aggressive fashion, but mine is already a Grade IV, so I’m not sure what to make of that.
You may ask yourself “Why is brain cancer so resistant to treatment, while other forms of cancer are making huge strides in life spans?” Many brain tumors are not considered for surgery(de bulking) due to their location in the brain. A benign tumor in one location in the brain, becomes malignant if it is in an “eloquent” area of the brain. An eloquent area of the brain is defined as an area that controls movement, thought, personality, gross and fine motor skills, or memory among other things. Thus surgically removing or de bulking a tumor may relieve symptoms temporarily, a Glioma will usually return because complete removal is not possible. Microscopic cancer cells are always left behind. Thus you have the need for radiation and chemotherapy.Radiation will kill many of the remaining cells, but only chemotherapy can kill all of the remaining cells. This is where things get complicated even further. Glioblastoma tumors a made up of mixed cell types. Every Glioma tumor is comprised of different concentrations of these different cells. Different types of cancer cells are killed by different types of chemotherapy drugs. The last, and most devastating issue, is what occurs in the brain itself as a naturally occurring defense mechanism. This mechanism protects the brain from viral and bacterial infection. This is known as the Blood-Brain-Barrier. It also serves to block most or all of the effective chemotherapy drugs, leaving only a few types of drugs that can cross this barrier. There are drugs that are being researched that try to open up this blood brain barrier, but the are very few and far between. Brain cancer research is only allotted a small fraction of cancer research due to the small number of people diagnosed with this condition each year. 78,000 people are diagnosed with brain tumors each year with nearly 17,000 dying each year. There are approximately 700,000 people in the USA living with one form or another of brain tumors…..
I’m not one to ask for help. I have worked since I was 15 years old. But if you can find it in your heart to donate….any amount helps…..