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Glioblastoma: A Bolt Out of the Blue

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By Elaine Eppright

Frank Eppright of Lenexa, Kan., was diagnosed with a brain tumor in early 2011. He came to MD Anderson less than a month later to receive treatment under Mark Gilbert, M.D.

His wife, Elaine, shares her experience as a caregiver to her husband.


Our lives changed forever at 3:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, 2010. My husband, Frank, was alone at work talking by phone with a client. The client told Frank he wasn't making any sense and to put the phone down and call 911. But Frank couldn't even dial 911.

Instead, he pushed his cell phone speed dial number for me. Together, the building security guard, our three wonderful daughters and I got Frank to The University of Kansas Medical Center by ambulance.

All through Christmas weekend we thought Frank had suffered a stroke, since his speech was so slurred and garbled. But on Dec. 26, we learned it was a brain tumor that triggered a seizure by leaking blood into his brain.

Frank underwent a left frontal craniotomy on Jan. 4 and the biopsy revealed he had a very small but malignant stage IV glioblastoma -- an astrocytoma. Ania Pollack, M.D., the KU neurosurgeon, removed 100% of a malignant nodule from Frank's brain.  

Magic words
Following his craniotomy, Frank called MD Anderson. He told the operator he had a brain tumor and needed help. She asked these magic words: "How soon can you get here?"  

We met with Mark Gilbert, M.D., on Jan. 31, 2011. Frank did his "chemo-radiation" in Houston. He had radiation five days a week for six weeks. He also took Temodar in pill form throughout radiation. He continues to take Temodar.

Frank also is participating in MD Anderson's Avastin study. He receives bi-weekly Avastin infusions and has quarterly status MRIs.
 
MD Anderson has given us hope. Dr. Gilbert tells us new treatments are being developed every day. If Frank must have additional radiation, it wouldn't be for at least three years, if then.  

Dr. Gilbert treats Frank as he would treat a patient with diabetes. The patient will always have the problem, but the treatment is one of disease control.  

Together in hope
We attended the Together in Hope Conference in Houston this May. It's sponsored biannually by The National Brain Tumor Society and MD Anderson.  

We listened to and learned so much from many speakers, including doctors, nurses, patients and caregivers. Mostly, it made us feel part of a larger community of people who are dealing with similar issues. 
 
Frank's seizure and shocking diagnosis have been "bolts out of the blue." He never had even one headache before his seizure and has had none since. We've learned that in most other cases, seizures like Frank's occur with no warning. That seems to be the hallmark of this terrible disease.

But we have been lucky. If Frank had been sleeping when he had the seizure, we might not have known he was so ill until it was too late.  

We are especially fortunate that Frank is being treated at MD Anderson by Dr. Gilbert and his stellar team of professionals. They give us the hope we need to stay positive and keep fighting.  

Our advice to anyone who has cancer is to come to MD Anderson. It's our beacon of light and hope in the darkness of our fears and worries.

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