My beloved husband, Frank Eppright, suffered a seizure on Christmas Eve 2010. We learned two days later he had a malignant brain tumor -- a stage IV glioblastoma, the most aggressive type.
Surgery and brain tumor treatment
On January 4, 2011, at a hospital in Kansas, Frank underwent a left frontal craniotomy, the most common type of brain surgery for a tumor. The doctors removed 100% of the malignant tumor from his brain. But, since brain tumor cells are always lurking, Frank was given only 12 to 14 months to live.
We wanted a second opinion and knew MD Anderson is renowned for diagnosing and treating all cancers. So we met neuro-oncologist Mark R. Gilbert, M.D., a few weeks later. Dr. Gilbert prescribed radiation therapy, chemotherapy and frequent MRIs. Frank underwent 30 radiation sessions while also taking the chemotherapy drug Temodar.
Clinical trials to prevent brain tumor recurrence
Frank then participated in a clinical trial using the drug Avastin, which had been shown to prevent tumor growth. He received biweekly infusions for many months.
Frank also participated in a clinical trial in which he received Accutane, a drug typically used to treat severe acne, at a dosage level roughly 10 times the amount prescribed to treat acne.
The clinical trials helped, but ultimately Frank's tumor mass recurred. He underwent a second surgery on February 2, 2012. This time neurosurgeon Ganesh Rao, M.D., performed an awake craniotomy, asking Frank questions while probing his brain to limit any damage to critical brain structures. Dr. Rao was able to remove 95% of a golf ball-sized tumor.
After surgery, Frank received Avastin and radiation therapy.
Cherishing the unforgettable memories
Ultimately, Frank's aggressive tumor could not be contained. He died on December 2, 2012, almost two years after his diagnosis. I thank MD Anderson, Dr. Gilbert, Dr. Rao, radiologist Paul Brown, M.D., and their staff for each precious, extra day their treatments extended Frank's life. MD Anderson gave us hope and the resolve to enjoy life.
Frank and I got to hold hands that many more days. Frank rejoiced in our family's accomplishments --- our daughter Caroline's professional successes, and Libby's law school and Melanie's college graduations. In September 2012, he walked Libby down the aisle to marry Kevin Stone. He had much more time with his mom, siblings, relatives and friends.
Frank was a vibrant life force who suffered and died from a brain tumor, but was not defined by it. He was an accomplished attorney, my best friend and a loving family man. He was dedicated to The Bishop Sullivan Center's "Project Elder Cool," which provides the elderly poor with air conditioners and helps pays their utility bills. Donations made in Frank's memory since his death have helped many more people survive Kansas City's long, hot summers. We are so proud of Frank and will never forget him. We will love him always and forever.
Racing to raise awareness and funds for brain tumors
For the last two years, our family has participated in the Head for the Cure -- Kansas City 5K race, founded by Matt Anthony in honor of his brother, Chris Anthony, who died at age 37 from a brain tumor. The event raises awareness for brain tumors and funds for research at MD Anderson.
Frank and I were honored to receive the Keeping the Faith Award at the August 2012 event. Participating in HFTC walks / runs helped us realize that we are not alone. I'm excited that HFTC has expanded to include the first inaugural Head for the Cure 5K in Houston on October 13, 2013. I long for the day a cure for brain tumors is found.