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 islands
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.
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.
I got connected with Dr. Batchelor, who is just wonderful,
Durham continues. Tracy Batchelor, MD, MPH, director
of the Cancer Centers 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!
brain cancer survivor.
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,
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
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