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SEAS TO SAFE HARBOR

Janice Durham remembers exactly when her symptoms began: August 4, 2003. While their two children were at camp, she and her husband were sailing their 33-foot sloop near Harbor Island, Maine, stopping occasionally to rock-hop the island’s rugged perimeter. When she awoke that morning, she felt as if her legs were still asleep. Within days, she could not slip her left foot into a shoe or keep her knee from overextending. Soon she was having seizures, her arm went limp, and she lost the mobility on her left side.

While an inpatient at Massachusetts General Hospital, Durham, then 50, learned from a biopsy that she had a Grade IV glioblastoma — the most aggressive brain tumor — that was inoperable. When she got the devastating news, her sister-in-law and niece were sitting beside her. “We all collapsed on one another and started to weep,” she recalls. “In the beginning, we were on the downside of all the odds.

“Then I got connected with Dr. Batchelor, who is just wonderful,” Durham continues. Tracy Batchelor, MD, MPH, director of the Cancer Center’s Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology, suggested radiation followed by a combination of drugs that included an angiogenesis inhibitor, a drug believed to stop the growth of blood vessels that feed tumors. She began the new therapy in October. “By Thanksgiving, I was able to move my pinky the tiniest bit,” she says, recalling with delight the first sign of improvement. “That was thrilling beyond belief!”

Janice Durham,
brain cancer survivor.

Gradually, the tide was turning. Durham was responding to the drugs and regaining movement. The following September, she and her husband met with Batchelor to review the results of her latest MRI. “How much tumor is left?” she asked him. “Nothing at all,” he replied. “Just scar tissue.” The couple was in shock. “Everything was going in the right direction,” she says.

Physically active her whole life, Durham joined a gym, worked with a personal trainer, and relearned how to ride her 21-speed mountain bike. “I just did a 13-mile ride all by myself,” she exults. This summer she and her family returned to Harbor Island, where she once again did some rock-hopping.

“The people at the Pappas Center were my lifelines,” says Durham. “They coordinated a complicated regime of prescriptions, tests and appointments. They managed side effects and, of course, the emotional aspects for me and my family. They did this all with warmth and caring.” - Lonnie Christiansen

Advancing the Specialized Care of Individuals with Brain Tumors
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APPOINTMENTS & REFERRALS

MGH Brain Tumor Center
Yawkey Building 9th Floor
Boston, Massachusetts,  02114
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Patients & Families with questions about referrals, consultations or appointments may contact:
Telephone: 617.724.8770
Fax: 617.724.8769

PHYSICIANS' INFO SERVICE

Physicians with
questions may contact:
Tracy Batchelor, M.D.
Executive Director,
MGH Brain Tumor Center
 
Harvard Medical School
Mass General Hospital
MassGeneral.org
MGH Cancer Center
NS @ MGHNS Diagnosis @ MGH
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