Gone but not Forgotten
George (Bill) McNamee
in May 2011 I was diagnosed with brain cancer, Glioblastoma Multiforme, and my life changed. I was just shy of my 70th birthday. My wife MaryJane and I are looking forward to our 50th wedding anniversary next fall. My symptoms started with the slightest feelings of confusion and nausea, nothing very obvious, lasting only seconds to a minute or two. My wife and I were on one of our cross country drives. We enjoy driving to new destinations. This trip was to a convention in Nashville. On our drive toward home, we had planned to stop by my brother's home. After experiencing quite a few of these "episodes", and being the only one of the two of us who could drive, my wife decided to call the doctor to see what these episodes could be and should we be concerned. The nurse told us to go straight to the ER at our local hospital. We drove another 3 1/2 hours to get to the hospital, not really thinking this was of any great importance, after all these little episodes were hardly noticeable, and I had no other symptoms that would make me believe I was in any immanent danger. We arrived at the hospital ER. The initial suggestion was that I was having little strokes. Obviously I was very concerned about this possibility, and was willing to undergo the testing. When the doctor returned however, there was quite a different response. He said, "I have good news and bad news, good news, you are not having a stroke. Bad news you have a brain tumor." Well that was completely unexpected. Of course the immediate questions are asked; where, how big, what do we do now? Within a week, I was having my first brain surgery. We had to ask the question, what is the survival rate with this form of cancer? The answer was not so great: about 14 - 18 months with treatments, and about 3 - 6 months without. WOW! Given those odds and watching others who have battled other forms of cancer with chemo and radiation, we were really agonizing over the whether we even wanted to try to seek out treatments...would the cost be too much, the travel be to intense, the toll on our family be to draining? After having a family conference we decided to at least do the standard treatments, and further investigating into any and all other treatments available. Our neurosurgeon suggested we look into clinical trails. Obviously we have heard of clinical trials before, but were clueless as to how to go about getting into one, and which one to choose, or where to even look for one I would qualify for. Again, after discussing with or family we decided to look into the possibility of joining a clinical trial at one of the leading hospitals doing this type of research. We chose Duke University, in North Carolina, specifically The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke. I became involved in a clinical trial for Gliadel Wafers. This is a procedure where they place up to 8 disolvable wafers of a concentrated form of chemo medication right into the area where the tumor was removed. The thought is that the release of the medication right in that location will kill any remaining cancer that was not removed, and hopefully prevent a new recurrence from happening as quickly as normally expected. That surgery took place in June of 2011. After returning from NC, we started the first round of Chemo and the radiation treatment. I am currently on a 5/23 dose of chemo, take 1 Temador pill 5 days in a row, and then take none for the next 23 days, then repeat the schedule. I have also started taking Avastin. This is another new drug treatment for brain cancer administered by IV once every 2 weeks. Overall my life has changed dramatically. I was the one who took care of and sheltered my wife during our marriage, and now the roles have been swiftly reversed. My short term memory is almost gone completely. Even though I still have the use of my legs, they are weakened due to the medications, and the lack of physical activity I once had. I try to go to my desk at our church, I am a Deacon in the Catholic Church. It is hard to concentrate and comprehend what I need to do. Some days I feel like things are getting back to a more normal way of life, and others seem like they are far from it! What I want most out of this experience is to be able to at least help someone else who gets this same diagnosis. I want my family to start a foundation for that. I wanted to be involved in a clinical trial so that my experiences are worth something, are measured and tested and will possibly be assistance to someone who finds the cure, or the method of prevention to this horrible disease.