Glioblastoma patient regains quality of life with Integrative Medicine
MD Anderson Staff
Bratton Fennell, 53, is one of the top-ranked distance runners for his age group in the Carolinas. During his brain tumor treatment, it turned out that getting moving again was the key to his well-being – both physical and emotional.
Bratton’s cancer journey began earlier this year, when he found himself occasionally stumbling while running, and then just walking. In March, he fell and couldn’t pick himself back up. Imaging tests at a local emergency room revealed a growth (later diagnosed as glioblastoma) measuring 7 cm at its widest.
“The tumor was too big for any other treatment, so it needed to be taken out,” Bratton says. “My doctor said if I wanted the best surgeons and the best radiation and chemotherapy afterwards, I needed to go to MD Anderson.”
Bratton chooses MD Anderson for brain tumor treatment
The doctor’s recommendation, combined with family in the Houston area, convinced Bratton that MD Anderson was the right choice. He traveled from his home in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina to MD Anderson a few days later. The tumor was removed during a craniotomy about a week after that.
While Bratton was impressed with MD Anderson and particularly confident in his surgeon, Jeffrey Weinberg, M.D., this period was filled with worry -- worry about his children’s financial well-being, worry about being a burden to his loved ones and worry about his quality of life after treatment.
After surgery, Bratton started a six-week course of chemotherapy and radiation therapy to kill any remaining cancer cells. Not only was his mind racing; the treatments left him feeling sluggish and hungover.
For the first week of these treatments, he responded with rest. But instead of giving him energy, this left him feeling lethargic and, with nothing to do, more anxious.
Clinical trial eases brain tumor treatment side effects
At the end of this first week of radiation and chemotherapy, MD Anderson’sIntegrative Medicine Center contacted Bratton to see if he’d like to participate in a clinical trial on the effects of yoga on brain tumor patients. He immediately agreed to join.
Bratton “felt great” after that first class, where he discovered that boosting his heart rate diminished his radiation hangover. He soon took up other activities, including Tai Chi, light swimming and walking MD Anderson’s skybridge up to five miles a day. All helped his physical recovery and counteracted the side effects of his treatment.
Just as importantly, the Integrative Medicine Center helped Bratton manage the stress and worry of cancer. Tai Chi, yoga and guided meditation taught him to breathe, relax and calm himself, while meditative prayer and spiritual reading from MD Anderson’sLearning Center made him feel spiritually whole.
“The meditation instructor told me to get rid of my monkey mind, get to where I was staying present and not bouncing around worrying about this, that and the other,” he says.
An advocate for the Integrative Medicine Center
Now back home in Myrtle Beach, Bratton continues to practice these relaxation techniques and stay active. He remains a dedicated distance runner and has recovered much of his speed, hitting 7- to 8-minute miles over longer distances. He expects to improve those times in the months to come, telling his racing friends, “You better beat me now while you can because as I continue to heal, I continue to get faster.”
While keeping up with training, Bratton will return to MD Anderson every few months for checkups and scans – which is especially important for patients with glioblastoma, which is known for being difficult to treat.
When he’s here, he says, he won’t hesitate to recommend the Integrative Medicine Center to other patients. It’s benefitted him both emotionally and physically, so he knows how much it can help.
“Think about mind and body,” he says. “Take advantage of the things offered at the Integrative Medicine Center, particularly in the area of meditation and restorative yoga. To the degree you’re comfortable, be physically active. I think those are very positive things to do.”