Rebuilding a Life: Ron’s Story
“Outside of being born, I’d never been to a hospital,” says Ron. The owner of a design company in Cambridge, Ohio, Ron had lived 48 years with few health complaints. “I rarely took an aspirin. Then cancer hits me, and all of the sudden I’m on 21 pills a day.”
Nearly two years ago, Ron began to feel exceptionally tired, a condition he attributed to the stress of a 30-year career delivering creative ideas to demanding clients. That was, until his vision started to double and he began to feel constant pain on his right side. “I thought I was going to have a stroke, but my doctor said I checked out in perfect health.” Persistent pain sent Ron back to his doctor, who recommended a visit to a neurologist. Tests revealed a tumor in Ron’s brain.
Though Ron’s brain tumor was successfully removed by surgeons in his area, his recovery was fraught with complications. “I had a lot of swelling after my surgery, and the piece of my skull removed to reach my tumor became so infected, it had to be removed,” he says. “I began to lose confidence in the care I was receiving and my loved ones were really concerned for my well being.”
On the advice of friends, Ron made a visit to The James and Robert Cavaliere, MD.
“The James fit what I was looking for. When Dr. Cavaliere stepped in, he was focused. He knew what he wanted to do for me,” says Ron. “I wanted to understand everything I was experiencing. I had a lot of questions about my treatment, the swelling in my left temporal area and the multitude of drugs I was taking. I would e-mail Dr. Cavaliere with questions, and he would get right back to me. He even took the time to talk hockey with me,” he laughed. “The PCAs, the RNs, the oncology team, everyone there embraced me, listened to me and counseled me when I needed it most. Dr. Cavaliere has even asked me to present at a conference on brain tumors at The James. I’ve made a lot of friends there.”
With two years behind him and counting, Ron is sympathetic to those that may be receiving a diagnosis today. “You’re dealing with the big unknown. In the beginning, it’s hard to wrap your mind around what it is you’re dealing with, and trying to figure it out is like when I tried to study and learn Latin,” he says. “Who is going to explain all of this to you? Doctors may not have the time to go into great detail. The Internet can be helpful, but you have to be careful to avoid biased information. All you can do is gather what information you can about your condition, prepare the best you can and make the biggest jump of your life. It’s a challenge to put your life in someone else’s hands, but I put my trust in The James, and I’m still here and can begin to rebuild my life.”
Blessed to Beat the Odds: Adrienne’s Story
It’s only fitting that a “miracle mom” should have a “miracle baby.”
That’s how 29-year-old Adrienne of Hilliard, Ohio, sees her son, Trevor, who was born in May 2008, just a few months after doctors at Ohio State’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute had stopped her chemotherapy for the sake of her surprise pregnancy.
For years Adrienne and her husband had been trying to conceive a second child – their first, Tyler, was born in 2001 – and she thought their chances were considerably diminished after she was diagnosed in autumn 2006 with stage IV glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive cancer of the central nervous system.
After John McGregor, MD, removed two malignant tumors from the left parietal lobe of Adrienne’s cerebrum, she began a regimen of oral chemotherapy and radiation treatment under the supervision of Robert Cavaliere, MD, of the Dardinger Neuro-Oncology Center at The James.
This lasted through January 2007. In April, Adrienne began what was to be a 12-month regimen of double-dose oral chemotherapy, but five months later she learned she was pregnant.
“All my life I’d never had regular menstrual cycles, but once I started radiation and chemo, I was regular like clockwork,” she says. “So I knew I was pregnant when I missed a period. In a sense he’s a miracle baby. I never thought I’d have another child, and then to have one after being treated for cancer…it’s pretty crazy.”
Since she is breast-feeding Trevor, she has undergone no further treatment, and MRIs (brain scans) that she receives every two months have shown no cancer recurrence. However, her doctors recommend that she finish her interrupted chemotherapy.
“They tell me I can hold off as long as I remain stable, but they want me to complete the regimen eventually as a precautionary measure,” she says, adding that she feels fine except for occasional minor headaches that seem to be associated with weather patterns.
But headaches she can deal with – she’s had them since she was a child.
And she’s been through even more than that. At age 14, while living in her native state of New Jersey, she sustained head lacerations when she was ejected through the rear window in a car accident (her seatbelt broke).
At that time an MRI showed a brain lesion, but doctors then attributed it to a head contusion from the wreck. Later MRIs indicated that it was diminishing in size and shape.
In August 2006 her headaches intensified and were accompanied by dizziness and clamminess. She requested a new MRI, but before she could have it, she had three seizures that led to her cancer diagnosis and treatment at The James.
Do all of these medical maladies make her a “miracle mom”?
“Pretty much, yes,” she laughs. “They tell me the average life span for people with my form of cancer is 18 months, so I’ve already beaten that. I really have nothing to complain about. The Lord God has blessed me so much. I’m counting my lucky stars, for sure.”