May 15, 2014
Glioblastoma survivor: Don't ignore the symptoms
BY Kellie Bramlet
When it comes to health, Deborah Britting has one message for others: Don't ignore potential symptoms. As a glioblastoma survivor, she's speaking from experience. Prior to last spring, Deborah had only occasional mild headaches. So last April, when the right side of her head began aching nonstop, she knew something wasn't right.
She took some over-the-counter medicine but it didn't seem to relieve the pain as it always had in the past.
Deborah's glioblastoma diagnosis
When over-the-counter pills didn't work, Deborah's daughters urged her to go to the doctor.
That visit and a subsequent MRI led to her brain tumor diagnosis: stage IV glioblastoma, located just above her right ear. The headache had been a brain tumor symptom.
Originally, Deborah did not plan on seeking a second opinion, but a nurse at her local hospital tried to change her mind.
"You get a second opinion to get your plumbing fixed. Why wouldn't you get a second opinion when it's your brain?" she said.
She had a point, Deborah thought.
After her glioblastoma diagnosis, her son took charge of researching and found information about a clinical trial at MD Anderson. With the support from her family she decided it was her best option.
Coming to MD Anderson for a glioblastoma IMPT clinical trial
Deborah's glioblastoma treatment began with brain surgery to remove the tumor. Then to make sure the tumor was gone, she underwent a month of intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT) treatments, followed by 42 days of chemotherapy pills.
Deborah was surprised by how well she felt during her treatment.
"It hasn't slowed me down much. Occasionally, a nap sounds pretty good," she says. "I felt way better than I ever thought I would have felt as a cancer patient."
For Deborah, finding the best care was extremely important. Both her grandmother and aunt had died of brain tumors decades earlier. She is thankful to be a part of the glioblastoma IMPT clinical trial and hopes that it will help other patients, and possibly her own family.
"I want to know the best possible treatment if my children or grandchildren should happen to develop this condition," she says.
Deborah is currently cancer-free, but for the next year, she'll continue to come to MD Anderson once a month as a part of the glioblastoma IMPT clinical trial. In the meantime, she's happy just to be living her life.
"I'm not done yet," she says. As a grandmother of nine, I have a lot of living yet to do."