For those of you who don't know, I'm Heather Tabman, writing about my older sister, Kristen Tabman-Magill. We both live in Tampa, Florida. Two years ago Kristen was a 31 year old healthy, fit Emergency Room nurse when life changed suddenly. She had one daughter (Saige) who was 3 years old at the time and was 7 months pregnant with her second daughter (Scarlett). We found out after she'd been experiencing some partial seizures that Kristen has been living with a massive brain tumor - for years it lay growing - suddenly it began to affect her.
She immediately had to stop working, make plans to have a c-section and began contacting brain surgeons at some of the country's best hospitals. Unfortunately, the tumor was huge (it's called an Oligoastrocytoma II), in a terrible location of her brain (the area that controls her speech, cognitive ability and memory) and could not all be removed. Nearly all surgeons turned her down. Kristen underwent surgery last year at UCSF in San Francisco and she did incredibly well. Thanks to the support of many of you. The doctor said it was a miracle she came out of it as well as she did and without surgery he expected she wouldn't have made it much longer. The surgeon used brain mapping to remove as much of the tumor as possible, however, a lot of it had to be left as it would have affected her cognitive functions. After surgery, she went back to a somewhat normal life as the seizures stopped and she focused on being a full time mom of a kindergartner and toddler. She fought through chemo each month and we all just hoped the tumor would remain silenced forever.
Just about two weeks ago, we learned the tumor had other plans. The chemo hasn't worked and it's growing.
Insurance has been a despicable mess- as many of you may have experienced personally or from stories. They will only allow her to do the "˜standard' radiation treatment and procedures. They have literally sent her a formal letter stating she is not allowed to get any other form of radiation than the standard, even if it's known to be better or lessen the side effects. The frustration is maddening, but now we can't focus on that, we've found something that has given us some hope...
I have found a treatment for Kristen! As we all know, the United States isn't necessarily the only ones with cutting edge technology, in fact Europe is often seen as more progressive and in this case it's Germany that might have the most successful treatment available.
I have a good friend who has a stepmother also diagnosed with a brain tumor. She was in a worse condition than my sister with a Glioblastoma Multiform IV. For those of you that don't know, almost no one survives very long with this diagnosis. It's a rapidly growing brain tumor that doesn't respond to anything. She and her husband live in Germany and after their insurance company gave them the 'standard' treatment option they went to see what else could possibly save her. They found silly alternative medicine quacks claiming they cure cancer, some that seemed legitimate, and some seemed to prey on hopelessness. This has been our findings as well. Not long after my friend's parents began their frantic search for something that seemed rational, scientific and legitimate, they found a clinic that was practicing something called Dendritic Cell (DC) therapy. I will not get into how this works now as it's all over the internet, but it's a treatment that is only in clinical trials for brain tumors in the United States. It's the most promising thing we've seen! Kristen is not eligible for the clinical trials for in the States because they are only for stage IV patients. This therapy has the best data for brain tumors patients and is the hope we've been looking for.
I know that thousands of people have been holding Kristen in their thoughts and prayers and we truly feel the support. We really believe this door has been opened for us because of the energy and prayers of everyone.
One of the doctors called me last week from the clinic and let me know after seeing her MRI scans that she's an excellent candidate for the therapy. After lots of questions and discussion I hung up and I started to cry. I cried because this is the hope I didn't know would come, but prayed for every day. Kristen has another option; she has something to try that's giving her a better opportunity than anything else. I composed myself and called her immediately.
Everything is a gamble when it comes to cancer. You must go where that voice inside you says to go. Some people choose standard treatment and do well, some don't. Others try alternative treatment mixed with standard and do well, some don't. I believe where we put our thoughts, energy and intention into, in whichever path that's taken, will assist the body (immune system) to fight and protect from disease.
If Kristen doesn't go to to get this treatment, she will probably go for radiation right away as there aren't many other options. This is not the preferred method as intense radiation to the brain, especially the area of her brain the tumor is, is very dangerous and risky. We'd much prefer to try this therapy as it has no harmful side effects before she tries anything else.
The therapy she would be getting is based on the person's own immune system, and the fact that Kristen is young and very healthy puts her at an advantage for a successful treatment. I'm sure it hasn't taken you this long to know why I'm writing.
WE MUST SEND KRISTEN TO GERMANY and her family won't have the finances to pay for the whole treatment.
Many of you donated two years ago as we asked for your support and it's gotten her through her surgery and continuing medical costs. We need more prayers and positive thoughts and energy, but even more than that right now, we need money to pay for this. Payment is mostly due before treatment starts and it's very expensive. Kristen will have to return to several times after the initial two months for something like a "˜booster shot' of the Dendritic cells as well. I'm asking you to PLEASE spread this story and donate something. We already have a bank account set up for her medical expenses and are making preparations to go. All money donated will only be used to get her to treatment and pay for associated costs of treatments.
I'm writing this on behalf Kristen, her husband Larry, her daughters Saige (age 5) and Scarlett (age 2), our brother Sean and our parents Debbie and Dave. Kristen cannot leave her little girls without a mom (and we kinda like having her around too. :) She has decided that she wants this treatment and believes in her heart it's what she needs. I will do anything in my power to make this happen.
My family is more appreciative than you can imagine for the love we've been receiving and support that close friends and complete strangers have given us. We are hoping to send Kristen in early December and she'd be in Cologne for two months. Please help us pay for this therapy.
With all the most love and gratitude,
ps. please feel free to contact my family via email [email redacted]
I will update her story as often as possible on here so you can follow how she's doing.
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