In 2004, Mary Lott was diagnosed with neuroblastoma of the sinus cavity and brain, a malignant tumor which typically occurs in infants and children.
“It all started with symptoms I thought were allergies. I remember feeling this intense pressure – it felt like I was having the worst sinus infection of my life,” said the 62-year-old Gonzales, Louisiana resident.
After several inconclusive doctors’ visits and weeks of medications and debilitating symptoms, Mary visited an ENT, subsequently undergoing surgery for severe sinus problems. When her symptoms failed to disappear – and progressively worsened – her friends and family knew something was seriously wrong. Soon Mary began experiencing episodes of memory loss and incoherent thought and speech patterns.
“I would forget names, phone numbers and say things that didn’t make any sense. My friends and family became especially concerned when I couldn’t even remember my niece’s name,” she said.
More tests revealed that Mary had a brain tumor requiring emergency brain surgery in Baton Rouge. After removing the tumor, her doctor recommended she meet with Steven J. Frank, M.D. of Radiation Oncology at the MD Anderson Proton Therapy Center, where she’d have access to the resources of the nation’s top-ranked comprehensive cancer center.
Her path to health at MD Anderson included two additional surgeries and Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT). However, when the tumor returned five years later, Dr. Frank suggested proton therapy for her next course of treatment for its precision in targeting tumors while minimizing damage to healthy surrounding tissue. Although Mary had never heard of proton therapy before, she put her trust in Dr. Frank and began the six-week treatment, five days a week.
For Mary, proton therapy turned out to be a “surprisingly comfortable” form of treatment. She experienced none of the debilitating side effects that may come with traditional radiation – no hair loss, nausea or severe pain – and maintained her quality of life.
The emotional support she found at the Proton Therapy Center was equally meaningful. “The Proton Therapy Center made me feel welcomed and pampered. I was also grateful that my doctors allowed me to return home to be with my loved ones every two weeks – seeing my family brought me a sense of normalcy,” she said.
Mary’s husband also joined her in Houston, providing support during treatment and loving company as the two explored the city’s shops and restaurants together – turning her time in Houston into mini-excursions.
Throughout her journey to recovery, Mary’s garden has been a special source of inspiration and hope for her. “When I was home from treatment, I worked in my flowerbeds. I look forward to my beautiful yellow lantanas and irises that return in the spring. My pansies are in bloom now, and will last until early summer.”
Mary graduated from treatment in November 2012, and is now doing what she enjoys most: watching classic movies, gardening and spending time with her two sons, six grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.