Brain Tumor Survivor is Celebrating Six Years and Counting Thanks To Hoag
For Lindsay Susskind, life is good. Wearing a bright sundress and a sunny
smile, Lindsay’s excitement towards life shows as she talks about
her recent engagement. Meeting Lindsay you’d never know she’d
been treated for glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive type of
brain tumor, that has an average survival rate of 14 months from diagnosis. Six years
ago, at the age of 24, Lindsay suddenly had a seizure and woke up in the
hospital. Soon after physicians told her she had a brain tumor, and she
underwent an operation to remove part of the tumor.
Familiar with Hoag’s reputation for exceptional care, Lindsay decided
to receive all future treatment at Hoag to remove the rest of her tumor
and to receive follow up treatment. “I just feel the care here is
amazing,” says Lindsay of her decision to seek treatment at Hoag.
Pushing boundaries into the ‘leading edge’
Christopher Duma, M.D., F.A.C.S., Director of Hoag’s Brain Tumor Program, treated Lindsay with a
non-invasive technique developed at Hoag, called
Gamma Knife Leading Edge Radiosurgery. Developed by Dr. Duma, the technique is designed to halt the spread of
malignant gliomas (a category of brain and spinal cord tumors that come
from glial cells, the main brain cells that can develop into cancer).
Gamma Knife Leading Edge combines the functionality of the Gamma Knife
with the advances in diagnostic radiology technology to map the shape
and location of the brain tumor in order to administer a tightly focused
dose of radiation to the tumor and its edges to stop and/or reduce the
growth of abnormal tissue. Patients experience no incision or significant
pain, and have a brief recovery period thanks to this advanced outpatient
Hoag Gamma Knife Center is the only facility in Orange County providing
this treatment option for patients with brain disease. Traditional radiosurgical
techniques have focused solely on the tumor bulk itself, while Hoag’s
advanced ‘leading edge’ technique specifically targets the
radiation beyond the local tumor volume to include the potential malignant
Prior to this technique, it was impossible to detect where the tumor might
spread. “I am convinced that is why Lindsay is still alive today,”
affirms Dr. Duma. “We’ve come a long way with this disease
by using the leading edge technique.” Now a survivor of six years,
Lindsay is looking forward to the future and planning a spring wedding
a year from now. “We’re really excited because everything
is coming together!” beams Lindsay.
Hoag provides a unique multidisciplinary approach to brain tumor treatment
that includes advanced diagnostic technology and expertise in guiding
microscopic, 3D image-guided surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and also
the Gamma Knife Perfexion®. The Gamma Knife Perfexion® represents
the most technologically advanced radiosurgical tool available.
In a collaborative environment, Hoag’s monthly tumor board brings
together neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, neurologists and other
healthcare professionals to discuss patient cases and determine the best
approach for that individual.
“It’s a team approach at Hoag,” says Brian Kim, M.D.,
radiation oncologist, Hoag Radiation Oncology and Gamma Knife Department.
“Each patient has a full panel of experts collaborating on the best
possible course of treatment as well as a nurse navigator, to guide them
through the troubled waters of such a diagnosis and its management.”
Credited to a culmination of state-of-the-art technology and multidisciplinary
and multimodal approach to care, the median and overall survival rates
for glioma patients at Hoag far exceed national averages. Twenty percent
of patients live three or more years, in comparision to a mere five percent
Hoag treats the most brain tumor cases south of Los Angeles and has treated
more than 200 brain tumors without surgery, using the Gamma Knife alone.
Navigating the road to recovery, Hoag’s Brain Tumor Program reaches
beyond treating the tumor alone and extends to nurture the healing process.
The brain tumor clinical
nurse navigator guides a patient through each step of the way. “It’s difficult
to have a diagnosis and not know where to go with it,” says Lori
Berberet, R.N., brain tumor clinical nurse navigator at Hoag and oncology
nurse of 30 years. Lori not only orients a patient before treatment, providing
patient education and emotional support through the diagnosis, but also
follows a patient post-procedure to connect them with Hoag support services
and community resources.
Dealing with the aftermath of a diagnosis is overwhelming for the entire
family. Lori ensures patients and their families receive the support needed
for their individual circumstances, such as counseling and even transportation,
to ensure they get to their treatment and follow-up appointments. Hoag
also provides a
brain tumor support group open to both patients and their families.
“I help connect the dots to Hoag resources to make sure people get
what they need, even if it’s ultimately palliative care,”
explains Lori. “I’m so lucky to do this job. I can’t
change a person’s diagnosis, but I can make them and their family
much more comfortable through their cancer journey.”
“First and foremost, Lori is amazing,” attests Lindsay. “Lori
has helped me to align with Hoag experts to best manage my care and keep
me at 100 percent!” Despite everything they’ve been through,
Lindsay’s family remains strong and has seized new opportunities
out of their experiences.
Inspired to help others, Lindsay’s sister is studying to become a
nurse. “She sees what Hoag has done and I know that has had a big
impact on her decision,” says Lindsay.
Inspired by Lori and strengthened by the support group, Lindsay is working
with Lori and Dr. Duma to reach out to other brain tumor patients and
be an example that, with the right treatment, there is hope.
For more information on Hoag’s Brain Tumor Program, visit
hoag.org/neurosciences, or call 949/764-5938.