On March 17th last year my wife Harriet went in for an MRI after several weeks of severe headaches. Born in Ireland, St. Patrick's Day is Harriet's holiday, but last year the luck of the Irish was not with her--the scan showed that she had a brain tumor requiring immediate surgery. Granted, I'm used to being in the Emergency Department, but always in uniform and with a patient to turn over to the capable staff of techs, nurses and doctors before heading out again. This time, however, was a completely different story. This time, it was my wife. The Missus. The girl I fell in love with at first sight, 17 years ago.
Me and the missus
The surgeon was able to remove most, but not all, of the tumor. The biopsy results showed it to be a Glioblastoma Multiformae, a type IV cancerous tumor. GBM is malignant, aggressive, and ultimately fatal. Treatable, but not curable, with a median life expectancy of 15 months from diagnosis.
The first MRI, that's the golfball sized tumor on the left
Since then, Harriet has undergone a course of radiation and chemo, as well as two more brain surgeries, one to remove part of her skull that became infected after the first surgery, then another to put in a plate to protect her brain.
After surgery #3. Still kicking!
The plastic 3D printed plate to fill the hole in Harriet's skull, aka "The Lego"
In November the tumor began to grow again despite monthly chemo treatments. After meeting with the surgeon we were told that the new growth is too diffuse to operate on at this time and to seek other forms of treatment. At our oncologist's suggestion, Harriet applied to Duke University for possible inclusion in one of the clinical trials to undergo experimental treatment.
Against long odds, last week we found out that she has been approved for inclusion in the D2C7 trial to inject a new drug directly into the tumor to ideally slow its progress. While this is fantastic news, it means traveling to Duke Cancer Center in Durham, NC for the 8 day long procedure on February 16, as well as follow up visits there for MRI's, exams, bloodwork, and check ups over the next year. Harriet is undergoing the new treatment to hopefully prolong her life, but also to help with the research into future treatments and possibly even a cure for GBM.
The Missus getting the rest of her head shaved after surgery #2
We have both had amazing support from family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers in the past year as we continue the uphill battle. Harriet is a fighter and a tough Irish lady, and she is determined to one day get back to her career as a dog trainer. Your donations will help with past and future medical bills, insurance premiums, lost wages, and travel expenses, as well as the occasional bunch of flowers for the missus. After all, she's still my girl.
On behalf of the missus and myself, thank you for listening to our story and for helping out if you can. Please share and help spread the word to others who may want to hear it.
Tipton and Harriet
- Heidi Nothdurft
- Jenny Burris
- Sarah McKune
- Mark/Joni Morgan
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