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1 day ago · Racing Toward a Brighter Future After Nerve Transfer Surgery

For six months after surgery to repair an injured radial nerve, Patrick Metzger couldn't lift his wrist or extend the fingers in his right hand. Seeking help, he made an appointment with the Peripheral Nerve Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. There his care team gave him new hope that he could regain his hand function.

For six months after surgery to repair an injured radial nerve, Patrick Metzger couldn’t lift his wrist or extend the fingers in his right hand. Seeking help, he made an appointment with the Peripheral Nerve Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. There his care team gave him new hope that he could regain his hand function.




Patrick
Metzger will never forget the first time he got on a motorcycle when he was 23.
“I was in Arkansas visiting my dad while on leave from the Air Force,”
he says. “I went on a ride with him and loved it.”

Patrick
got his motorcycle license and continued to ride with his dad and brother until
he decided to get his own motorcycle in 2009. Then, in 2016, he bought a race
bike and started racing around a track.

“You
go out on the track to do the warm-up lap. The flagger is up on the stand. All
the engines rev while you’re waiting for the green flag. When it goes up, you can
feel the front end of your bike come off the ground,” Patrick says. “It’s
so exciting.”

But
on Dec. 2, 2017, the excitement turned to injury. During a race in Southern
California, Patrick flipped over the front of his bike. He broke both of his
arms and fractured a vertebra in his back. He also injured his right radial
nerve — the nerve that runs down
the back of the arm, controlling movement of the triceps muscle and allowing for extension
of the wrist and fingers.

Patrick
was rushed to the emergency department at a Palm Springs hospital. Doctors there
performed two surgeries: one to fix his broken bones and another to repair the injured
radial nerve. After nine days in the hospital, Patrick returned to Las Vegas,
where he lives and works for a defense contractor at Nellis Air Force Base.

“After
the nerve repair, I was told it would take six months to heal. I had grip
function but could not lift my wrist, extend my fingers out or lift my thumb,”
Patrick says. “It was extremely limiting not to be able to use my dominant
hand. I missed six months of work and had to learn how to do lots of things
with one hand.”

Patrick went to see several local doctors about the nerve damage in his hand. He was referred to a plastic surgeon who recommended Patrick go to the Peripheral Nerve Clinic at Mayo Clinic in Arizona.

Comprehensive evaluation reveals a way forward

During his first visit to Mayo Clinic in June 2018, Patrick had an appointment with Shelley Noland, M.D., a hand and peripheral nerve surgeon. “They did electromyography to confirm what did and didn’t work,” Patrick says. “Then I met Dr. Noland, who told me I still had radial nerve palsy from my accident, and there was a narrow window to get this treated.”

Radial nerve palsy is one of the most common nerve palsies, and it’s typically related to trauma,” Dr. Noland says. “As a result of injury to the nerve, patients cannot lift their wrist or fingers. This is commonly referred to as a ‘wrist drop.'”

“Dr. Noland is professional, intelligent and very passionate about what she and her team do. Everyone I talked to was at the top of their game.”

Patrick Metzger

“Dr.
Noland and her team went through every muscle and tendon from my shoulder to my
hand and explained the surgical options I had,” Patrick says.

“We felt Patrick needed more than just a nerve repair because the site of injury was very far from the muscles. Additionally, electromyography did not demonstrate any recovery,” Dr. Noland says. “To maximize his function, we recommended nerve transfers to reroute signals from healthy nerves into injured nerves, bringing them back to life. This would allow him to lift his fingers independently, which is important for activities like keyboarding and fine manipulation.”

After
his assessment and the discussion with Dr. Noland, Patrick agreed to move
forward with nerve transfer surgery. “Dr. Noland is professional,
intelligent and very passionate about what she and her team do. Everyone I
talked to was at the top of their game,” Patrick says. “I’ve never
been so thoroughly examined in my life.”

Life-changing surgery with remarkable results

Patrick
underwent surgery in July 2018.  During
the three-hour procedure, Dr. Noland and neurosurgeon Pelagia Kouloumberis, M.D., completed nerve transfers to Patrick’s
paralyzed radial nerve. Then, after about a month of recovery, Patrick started
working with Cece Skotak, a certified hand therapist at Mayo Clinic, to learn
the rehabilitation exercises he would need to do at home to retrain his brain
to move his wrist and fingers.

In
January, Patrick drove to Arizona for a follow-up appointment with his occupational
therapist and Dr. Noland. “She had me perform a task that required me to
extend my fingers, and I was able to do it,” Patrick says. “Dr.
Noland was so excited when I showed her how the first knuckles of the fingers
were working again. It was mind-blowing to see this progress after going so
long without having my hand working.”

Patrick
pushed harder to accelerate his recovery. “The more progress I saw, the
more motivated I was,” Patrick says. “When I bent down to grab my
backpack, I noticed my right wrist didn’t drop. It didn’t flop around. That was
immediately encouraging.”

“Being able to do things like shaking someone’s hand makes me feel like I’ve gotten my life back.”

Patrick Metzger

A
few months later, he was able to start typing again. “It was a very steep
uptick from there in terms of capability. Today, I can independently fully
extend each one of my fingers on my right hand. I can open bottles and jars. I
can use tools again,” Patrick says. “Being able to do things like
shaking someone’s hand makes me feel like I’ve gotten my life back.”

Back at work, Patrick is
now able to again perform his duties and responsibilities in support of the
mission at Nellis Air Force Base. He also has returned to being an Air Force reservist.
And he’s been doing some practice riding at the track, too. Patrick will continue to have
six-month follow-ups with Dr. Noland and the multidisciplinary team for another
year.

“There was a long period of time I didn’t know what my future was going to be, and now I do know,” Patrick says.

The results Patrick has enjoyed following his surgery highlight the benefits of the specialty care provided at the Peripheral Nerve Clinic. “Your hands touch every aspect of your life, and the ability to bring function back to the hand is life-changing. Not to mention the economic implications this has — people can maintain their jobs and livelihoods,” Dr. Noland says. “That’s why we love the Peripheral Nerve Clinic because you can bring life back to a paralyzed arm.”

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3 days ago · After Kidney and Pancreas Transplant, Allma Says Goodbye to Diabetes

For decades, Allma Johnson managed her diabetes with insulin and diet. But at 43, her heart and kidneys were failing as a result of the disease, and she needed a kidney and pancreas transplant. Today, thanks to the transplant she received at Mayo Clinic, Allma's diabetes and its devastating complications are gone.

For decades, Allma Johnson managed her diabetes with insulin and diet. But at 43, her heart and kidneys were failing as a result of the disease, and she needed a kidney and pancreas transplant. Today, thanks to the transplant she received at Mayo Clinic, Allma’s diabetes and its devastating complications are gone.




When Allma Johnson was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 15, she knew her life would be forever changed. An active high school student involved in marching and concert band, Allma had to begin daily insulin injections.

For years, the injections were all she needed to manage her disease. In her 30s, she transitioned to an insulin pump, along with a continuous glucose monitor. A few years later, she returned to daily injections and routine blood sugar checks. Together with a healthy diet, they kept her diabetes in check.

But in early 2015, when she was 43, Allma began to
experience troubling symptoms. “I started noticing swelling in my ankles
that slowly progressed to my calves,” Allma says.

Those symptoms signaled the beginning of a downward spiral in Allma’s condition that took a serious toll on her heart and kidneys. Her need for specialized care led Allma to Mayo Clinic, where she eventually received a kidney and pancreas transplant that restored her health and allowed her to bid goodbye to her diabetes for good.

A rapid decline

Allma’s leg swelling in 2015 landed her in a hospital emergency department in Las Vegas, where she lives. The news wasn’t good. “They removed 8 to 10 pounds of fluid from my body, and told me I had congestive heart failure,” she says.

As a result of that diagnosis, Allma started receiving care from a local cardiologist. But two months later, while at work one day, she began having serious breathing problems and ended up back in the emergency department, where she received more bad news. She had stage 3 kidney failure.

“About one-third of patients with Type 1 diabetes develop kidney disease and eventually kidney failure. These patients are typically prime candidates for a kidney and pancreas transplant.”

Hasan Khamash, M.D.

Allma was referred to a local nephrologist for treatment.
She began taking medications to improve her kidney function, and she followed a
strict diet that limited her salt and water intake, as well as phosphorus,
protein and potassium. But those measures didn’t work. Within two months, Allma’s
kidney failure progressed to stage 4.

“The doctor told me I needed to prepare for dialysis. I was just in shock,” Allma says. Then, in the summer of 2016, Allma learned she would need a kidney and pancreas transplant. Her doctor recommended she go to Mayo Clinic in Arizona for a transplant evaluation. In early fall 2016, Allma moved in with her mother and stepfather and made an appointment with Hasan Khamash, M.D., a Mayo Clinic nephrologist.

“About one-third of patients with Type 1 diabetes develop kidney disease and eventually kidney failure,” Dr. Khamash says. “These patients are typically prime candidates for a kidney and pancreas transplant.”

Based on her kidney function, she fit the criteria for a transplant. But Allma’s poor heart function stood in the way. During her first meeting with Dr. Khamash, Allma learned her heart’s ejection fraction — a measure of the percentage of blood the heart squeezes out with each beat — had been as low as 30%. Dr. Khamash told her it had to be at least 45% to have the transplant.

“Kidney failure and diabetes can affect heart
function,” Dr. Khamash says. “With kidney failure, you have a buildup
of fluid and toxins in the body, which reduces the ejection fraction of the
heart.”

Over the next several months, they worked to improve
Allma’s ejection fraction. By February 2017, it was high enough for her to
qualify for a transplant, and Allma’s name was place on the transplant waiting
list.

“Dr. Khamash is very calm and approachable,”
Allma says. “He explains things very thoroughly and in a way that anyone
can understand. He’s a great person.”

A grueling wait

Knowing it could be several years before a kidney and pancreas
became available to her for transplant, Allma maintained her hope and faith
with the knowledge that a new beginning was coming. To help her cope with the
wait, she made sure to be well-prepared.

“I was concerned because I didn’t know what was going
to happen,” Allma says. “I kept my phone in my hand and a few
personal items ready. I knew I had to be ready to go whenever I got the call
that organs were available.”

“I pushed hard because I needed to have a sense of normalcy. I refused to let what was happening get the best of me.”

Allma Johnson

As Allma waited, more challenges cropped up. She became severely anemic and had to take medication to help her bone marrow produce red blood cells. She also had weekly iron infusions.

“I kept getting worse every day and felt so fatigued. I could barely perform daily tasks
like brushing my teeth,” Allma says. “I
pushed hard because I needed to have a sense of normalcy. I refused to let what
was happening get the best of me.”

In June 2017, Allma began dialysis. A month later, her ejection fraction dipped to 28%.
Because of that, she was inactivated on the transplant list. She could no
longer work and retired from her position with the U.S. Postal Service. “I
felt like I was just dying,” Allma says. “I made my funeral arrangements
and wrote my obituary.”

But her Mayo care team was determined to get Allma to a
point where she could receive her transplant. In August 2017, Allma spoke with Brian
Hardaway, M.D.
, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist, who
told her that better dialysis and fluid removal could improve her heart
function.

“We work very closely with our heart failure
colleagues,” Dr. Khamash says. “This collaborative environment is key
to success in having these patients transplanted, so they can have a shot at a
better life.”

The new treatment plan made a difference. In March 2018, Allma
went in for a follow-up visit with her local cardiologist. Her heart function
finally was normal. She was reevaluated for a transplant at Mayo. On June 28,
2018, she was cleared to be put back on the transplant waiting list.

“I began to cry and thank God. I was full of
gratitude,” Allma says. “To celebrate, I went to one of my favorite
restaurants in Vegas.”

A fresh start

Three days later — and 31 years to the day after being
diagnosed with diabetes — Allma got the call that would save her life. There
was a kidney and pancreas available for her.

“Driving to Mayo, I’m thinking: ‘This is the day. I’ll
never have to go through this stuff ever again.’ I felt a peace that was
indescribable,” Allma says. “This is where I was supposed to be. I was
going to have a new lease on life. I felt joy, but was sad and prayerful thinking
of the person that gave so freely. I was thinking of his or her family and
their loss.”

On Aug. 1, 2018, Allma received a kidney and pancreas
during a nine-hour surgery with transplant surgeons Andrew
Singer, M.D., Ph.D.
, and Winston
Hewitt, M.D.
Afterward, while she was in recovery,
she couldn’t believe what she heard the doctors and nurses saying. “They
said I didn’t need dialysis,” Allma recalls. “I had no signs of
diabetes, and my heart was fine.”

“I can’t begin to explain the joy I have every morning I awake and don’t need an insulin injection or to undergo dialysis.”

Allma Johnson

Allma was discharged from the hospital a week later. She stayed
in Phoenix for two-and-a-half months to receive follow-up care and then
returned home to Las Vegas, free from all her previous medical concerns.

“It was the first time that I was able to say that I
feel good. I never knew what the experience of feeling good was like,”
Allma says. “I can’t begin to explain the joy I have every morning I awake
and don’t need an insulin injection or to undergo dialysis.”

That’s just the type of feedback Dr. Khamash enjoys most. “Hearing
those words is very gratifying,” he says. “We’re fortunate to work in
a field of medicine where we can see the change in a patient’s life in front of
our eyes.”

For her part, Allma’s extremely grateful for the care she
received at Mayo. “The staff was full of compassion from day one.
Everything is awesome,” she says. “I tell people, ‘If you need
anything, go see someone at Mayo.’ I’m glad I chose them.”

In addition to trying to get back to work full-time, Allma,
who sings professionally on occasion, is finding her voice. She continues to grow in her musical calling
and hopes to audition to be a vocalist for a Las Vegas theatre group that gives
hope to patients in critical care.

“Someone might be in my same situation, waiting on a
transplant or treatment. I want to be able to uplift and support them and say, ‘Hey,
I’ve been there, too,'” Allma says.

Working toward those new goals and enjoying life without
serious health concerns has given Allma a fresh take on her future. “I see
life in a whole new way. I’m an overcomer. Every day I give thanks to God and
to my donor,” Allma says. “I keep pushing forward toward the mark of
greater. I feel amazing!”


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6 days ago · Reenergized After Accurate Diagnosis and Treatment for Painful, Debilitating Symptoms

Margaret Parry is moving with ease around her Wyoming home and community these days. She has plenty of energy, she's excited about life and she feels good. It's a 180-degree difference from a year ago when an undiagnosed condition made each step she took a painful proposition.

Margaret Parry is moving with ease around her Wyoming home and community these days. She has plenty of energy, she’s excited about life and she feels good. It’s a 180-degree difference from a year ago when an undiagnosed condition made each step she took a painful proposition.




As far back as 67-year-old
Margaret Parry can remember, pain was a constant in her life. As a preschooler,
achy legs and feet kept her awake. In adolescence, her menstrual cycles
debilitated her. As a young mother, extreme pain and swelling in her legs and
pelvis cast a shadow on each day.

“I’d get up in
the morning, and I’d be great. By 3 or 4 in the afternoon, I’d start getting
ornery, but I didn’t know why,” Margaret says. “When I was married
and a stay-at-home mom, I was on my feet all the time. I didn’t know other
people’s legs didn’t hurt at night. I didn’t know it wasn’t normal. You don’t
say to your friends, ‘Do your legs hurt you?'”

Margaret, who lives in Rock Springs, Wyoming, not only had crippling chronic pain in her pelvis, and pain and swelling in her lower extremities, she also had varicose veins in her legs. She developed deep vein thrombosis, or blood clots, as well.

Through the years, Margaret repeatedly sought medical attention for her health issues. Despite many interventions, such as a hysterectomy and varicose vein ablation, the excruciating leg pain continued as Margaret aged.

“I could wake up
in the morning after not having been up for hours, and my left leg would be
beet red and swollen,” Margaret says. “By the end of the day, I would
get so tired and my legs would hurt so bad that I needed to have my legs up.”

In December 2018, however, Margaret’s life changed dramatically after a meeting with Mayo Clinic interventional radiologist Grace Knuttinen, M.D., Ph.D., in the Department of Radiology. At Mayo Clinic, Margaret learned her health problems stemmed from one source — a compressed iliac vein. The vein compression, a condition known as May-Thurner syndrome, had caused blood to pool in her pelvis and lower extremities.

In April, Margaret
underwent a stenting procedure that opened the iliac vein obstruction, allowing
blood to flow smoothly to her heart. It made a dramatic difference. “Here’s
the miracle — it almost makes me cry — my legs don’t hurt anymore,”
Margaret says. “I don’t care how much I’m up during the day. They don’t
hurt in the evening.”

Uncovering a complex condition

Margaret’s experience
with May-Thurner echoes that of an untold number of women suffering with symptoms
such as chronic pelvic pain, Dr. Knuttinen says. When iliac vein compression leads
to a backup of blood into the pelvic floor veins and lower extremities, it can
cause high blood pressure in the veins — a condition called venous
hypertension. That can lead to lower limb swelling, pain and venous leg ulcers.
Other symptoms brought on by the condition include lethargy, depression,
headaches and nausea.

“It’s a disease
that is very underdiagnosed, misdiagnosed and undertreated. One of the reasons
is sometimes the lack of visual physical findings,” Dr. Knuttinen says. “A
good clinical history is vital. A lot of these patients come in with chronic
pelvic pain for months and sometimes years, which is a major cause of
disability leading to a really poor quality of life.”

The condition develops
at the point in the pelvis where the right iliac artery crosses over the left
iliac vein. In patients with May-Thurner, the left iliac vein, which brings
blood from the left leg to the heart, gets squeezed, or compressed, between the
spine and the right iliac artery.

As a result of the
compression, the body adapts and finds other ways to transport blood back to
the heart, Dr. Knuttinen explains. “Our body is a wonderful thing, and
anytime you have a complete obstruction of some type of venous return, your
body will do a good job of finding other pathways,” she says. “Other
channels will open up, but these channels can create or accentuate other
symptoms.”

“No matter what they did to her legs, it wasn’t going to improve the flow because they weren’t improving the main pipeline.”

Grace Knuttinen, M.D., Ph.D.

For Margaret, the condition caused varicose veins to form throughout her pelvic floor and leg. But a more dangerous problem for her was the formation of blood clots, which could break apart and move into her lungs, causing a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism.

At her meeting with Dr. Knuttinen at Mayo Clinic in Arizona, Margaret underwent a series of tests, including a lower extremity ultrasound and an MRI, to diagnose May-Thurner. Dr. Knuttinen personally read Margaret’s scans, as she does for all of her patients. Margaret’s test results confirmed the vein compression, as well as a web of dilated veins in her pelvis — the same sort of varicose veins she’d battled in her legs for years.

“There are a lot
of places out there doing laser vein ablation in the lower extremities. But if
you fix that problem and have a compression of the iliac vein on top, it’s not
going to work because ultimately you have to fix the main outflow channel,”
Dr. Knuttinen says. “No matter what they did to her legs, it wasn’t going
to improve the flow because they weren’t improving the main pipeline.”

Curing a lifelong affliction

The procedure used to
correct the blood flow involves inserting a catheter through the groin into the
left femoral vein, and a catheter and wire are advanced to the site of the vein
obstruction. Then, Dr. Knuttinen says, intravascular ultrasound is performed to
assess the severity and length of the compression, and to determine what size
stent is needed to open the compression. Once a stent is placed, it keeps the
vein open, allowing for blood to flow freely.

After Margaret had
the procedure, her daily discomfort decreased significantly. Dr. Knuttinen told
her she may experience back pain as a result of the stent placement, and she
did. But the pain was mild, Margaret says, and she was able to control it with
acetaminophen.

“The more doctors who know about this can say to those who have it, ‘This can be fixed.’ When I went home after the stenting procedure, my pain was very short-lived.”

Margaret Parry

“I don’t know
how many people are affected by this, but hopefully more and more doctors will
learn about it,” Margaret says. “The more doctors who know about this
can say to those who have it, ‘This can be fixed.’ When I went home after the
stenting procedure, my pain was very short-lived.”

Although Margaret
will have to keep taking blood thinners for the rest of her life, she feels
that’s a small price to pay to get rid of the pain. And not only is Margaret now
pain-free, she’s more energetic and excited about life again. Travel and shoe
shopping are especially fun, she says.

“My left leg was
always worse than my right and always bigger than my right,” Margaret
says. “I’d go to buy boots, and the right side would be baggy, but the
left side would be tight. My left side is almost the same as my right now.”

More than anything, though,
Margaret says she feels gratitude that Dr. Knuttinen was able to decipher her
symptoms and provide the correct diagnosis and treatment.  “I don’t know where Dr. Knuttinen got
the knowledge for this, but I want Mayo to know what an incredible job she’s
done for me.”


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LINKS

Wed, Aug 14 5:00am · From Tumor to Toddler: A Montana Man's Path to Fatherhood

As a newlywed couple trying to have a baby, Derin and Sandra Gebhardt were anxious and worried when they failed to conceive. But Mayo Clinic surgeons provided new hope after successfully removing a tumor near Derin's brain that was the cause of their infertility and the root of his other health problems.

As a newlywed couple trying to have a baby, Derin and Sandra Gebhardt were anxious and worried when they failed to conceive. But Mayo Clinic surgeons provided new hope after successfully removing a tumor near Derin’s brain that was the cause of their infertility and the root of his other health problems.




When
Derin and Sandra Gebhardt got
married in 2016, they were eager to start a family. That dream wasn’t easy to
achieve, however. When they had difficulty getting pregnant, the couple searched
for answers. Sandra wondered if the problem could be rooted in hormones. That
insight led not only to a solution for their infertility, but also to renewed
health for Derin, who had been battling a host of puzzling medical problems.

In his 30s when the couple wed, Derin’s
health had become a growing concern. “I
was not sleeping well,” he says. “I had terribly high blood pressure.
I was 465 pounds.” Although he was eating healthy and exercising, Derin
couldn’t lose weight.

“I just was scared to death that he was going to die.”

Sandra Gebhardt

“I remember talking to my mom, and I was like,
‘There’s something wrong, but we can’t find it,'” Sandra says. “I
just was scared to death that he was going to die.”

It was when Derin and Sandra tried, to not avail, to have a baby, that Sandra began suspecting that a hormone problem could be at work. She was right. A local doctor confirmed Derin had low testosterone. But there was more. The cause of the hormone imbalance was a benign tumor on Derin’s pituitary gland near his brain.

“I kind of had a sense of opening a
new door and not knowing where that’s going to lead,” Derin says. “But
also a little bit of relief to say, ‘OK, it’s not my fault.'”

Treatment began with medication to reduce the size of the tumor. Then Derin traveled to Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where he would undergo surgery to remove the tumor. His Mayo care team confirmed the nature of the tumor and the effect it was having on Derin.

“His hormones were out of whack because of this
tumor pushing on the pituitary gland,” says Bernard
Bendok, M.D.
, a Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon.

“This particular tumor, called a prolactinoma, produces a hormone called prolactin,” says Devyani Lal, M.D., a Mayo Clinic otorhinolaryngologist. “The function of prolactin is to inhibit fertility.”

“When Sandra told me she was pregnant, it was an answered prayer. It was wonderful when (Gage) was born, and he was healthy.”

Derin Gebhardt

To take out the tumor, a team of Mayo experts from Neurosurgery and Otorhinolaryngology used a minimally invasive procedure that involved two surgeons. Using small instruments inserted through the nostrils, the surgeons successfully removed the entire mass.

After the surgery, Derin’s testosterone and prolactin
levels went back to normal. Less than nine months later, little Gage Gebhardt
arrived six weeks early. “When Sandra told me she was pregnant, it was an answered
prayer,” Derin says. “It was wonderful when he was born, and he was
healthy.

That’s the kind of heartwarming news Dr. Bendok is happy to hear.
“We often think of endpoints in terms of
just the patient’s health,” she says. “But when you also allow a
family to create life together, that is a very meaningful thing.”

Watch this video for more about Derin’s story:


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Mon, Aug 12 5:00am · Spinal Fusion Surgery Revives an Active Lifestyle

After a sudden injury left her with multiple ruptured disks in her lower back, Pat Henneberry knew Mayo Clinic was the place she wanted to go to help her get back on her feet.

After a sudden injury left her with multiple ruptured disks in her lower back, Pat Henneberry knew Mayo Clinic was the place she wanted to go to help her get back on her feet.




Returning
to her home in Austin, Texas, one day in spring 2018, Pat Henneberry stepped
inside and without warning fell to her knees in excruciating pain. “Basically,
the lower part of my back and spine shifted away from each other,” she
says.

Single and living alone, Pat called a neighbor who brought her to the local emergency department, where she underwent an MRI and was told she needed surgery. Then she was discharged and sent home. Pat was given painkillers, but they did nothing to dull the pain. It only got worse. “Eventually, it just became too much,” she says. “I couldn’t walk, stand or move.”

When
Pat’s neighbors checked on her, she found Pat immobilized by pain and rushed
her to the hospital a second time. “I had two epidurals for the pain,”
Pat says. “I spent the next two weeks in the hospital wondering what had
happened.”

Finding a fix

Before
her injury, Pat had been the definition of an active adult. She’d played tennis,
rode her mountain bike and water-skied. She had been a trail runner and an
accomplished triathlete. Pat also was a swimmer, dedicating the free time she had
away from her career as CEO and founder of The Jewelry Coach to the
Special Olympics by volunteering as a swim coach. “That’s my passion,”
Pat says. “I’ve got 35 athletes on my Special Olympics swim team. I’m a
super active person. This all threw me for a loop.”

It
was especially surprising, Pat says, because her body gave no indication that something
was wrong. “I had no symptoms, no warning signs,” she says. “I’m
not someone who’s lived with chronic back pain. I had no idea this was
teeter-tottering in my back.”

As
she lay inside that Texas hospital room, however, Pat learned that her medical
situation was extremely serious. “I was told I ruptured multiple disks,”
she says. “After I fell, I immediately lost a lot of function in my left
leg. I could hardly move it. It felt like it was going to blow up.”

Pat underwent a minimally invasive surgical procedure to relieve some of the intense pain. “The surgeon wanted to remove some of the ruptured disk matter. After the surgery, he said it was the most he’d ever pulled out of someone’s back,” Pat says. “It was at that point that I knew I was going to have what I called the ‘big kahuna’ — a much bigger, two-level spinal fusion surgery with the rods and the screws and all of that to permanently restabilize my spine.”

Offering honesty and transparency

While still in a great deal of pain, Pat began searching for the best spine surgeon she could find. Her research led her back to a place Pat knew well. “I grew up in Iowa, and Mayo Clinic was always that magical place three hours north. You were pretty lucky if you were able to go there for your care. That was a big deal in my hometown,” Pat says. “I sent my paperwork in to Mayo and got a reply back saying I was a candidate for spinal fusion surgery. I got on a plane in November and flew directly to Rochester.”

When she arrived at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Pat met with spine surgeon Paul Huddleston, M.D. “He and his staff were amazing and so good at communicating with me,” she says. “And if you research his credentials like I did, you’ll see he’s got just about every accolade in the book.”

“I’d been in a lot of different hospitals, and spoken with a lot of different doctors and surgeons by that point, but there was something uniquely different about Mayo Clinic and Dr. Huddleston.”

Pat Henneberry

Another
asset Dr. Huddleston had, Pat says, was a straightforward, honest approach about
how he could help her. “I’d been in a lot of different hospitals, and
spoken with a lot of different doctors and surgeons by that point, but there
was something uniquely different about Mayo Clinic and Dr. Huddleston,”
she says. “He was very detailed and transparent in his approach to my care
and also very honest in saying that I may need to have a second procedure a few
years down the road. I was disappointed to hear that at first. But I
appreciated the honesty, and it’s ultimately why I chose to have Dr. Huddleston
perform my surgery.”

The
decision was significant, particularly given the time of year. “I live in
Texas and could have surgery at a lot of different places, but I chose to go up
north to Minnesota in January,” Pat says. “I mean, who chooses to
have spinal fusion surgery in Rochester, Minnesota, in January? But I chose Dr.
Huddleston and Mayo Clinic because he was so transparent with me.”

Another
factor that persuaded Pat to pick Mayo Clinic was the technique Dr. Huddleston would
use for the spinal fusion. He assured her he would be able to perform the
surgery with only an incision in her back. Other surgeons had told her they
would need to go through the front of her body and the back to complete the
procedure.

Though it took longer than expected, Pat says Dr. Huddleston did all that he said he would and more. “The surgery took 6½ hours,” she says. “I was filled with a lot of arthritis that he first had to clean out — probably from my days of waterskiing and mountain biking.”

Following
her spinal surgery and hospital stay, Pat had to face one of her biggest postoperative
fears: the three-hour car ride to her mother’s house in Iowa. Dr. Huddleston
and the rest of Pat’s care team, however, quickly eased that concern. “They
all said it would be fine, and that they had patients who did it all the time,”
Pat says. “They tucked me safely and snugly into the car and really
prepared me well. It wasn’t bad at all.”

Walking to recovery

Once
in Des Moines, Iowa, Pat’s road to recovery continued. “We got back to
Iowa, and after I made it through my initial rehab, I asked my care team back
at Mayo: ‘What can I do? Can I swim? Can I bike?” And they said, ‘No, you
can only walk, walk, walk.”

So
that’s what Pat did. “Using a cane and walker, I started by walking around
the inside of my mom’s house because it was the middle of winter,” she
says. “I’d walk from the kitchen to the living room, and I’d walk the 44
steps it took to get from one end of the house to the other. Whenever someone
would call me, I’d force myself to stand up and walk some more while I was talking.
Walking was all I could do, and I knew how important it was to my recovery.”

All
that effort paid off. “I eventually graduated to being able to walk downstairs
to the basement without my cane or walker,” she says. “I then
graduated to walking around the local mall while using hiking poles for
stability.”

“Most of my pain is now gone, and I actually look forward to going back to Rochester whenever I have to because it’s a great city with great people and great health care providers.”

Pat Henneberry

After
five months, Pat felt strong enough to say goodbye to her mother and return to
her home in Austin, where she says her daily walks have continued to lengthen. “I’m
up to 6 miles a day now,” she says. “I’m walking hills, and I’m
walking in heat. I started more physical therapy recently, so I’m also working
on building my strength back up. Dr. Huddleston tells me I’ll be able to start
swimming and doing yoga again soon, which I’m looking forward to.”

Pat’s
also looking forward to coming back to Rochester for follow-up care to see Dr.
Huddleston and the rest of her care team. “My care team tells me I’m
approximately four months into a two-year recovery,” Pat says. “Mentally,
that was hard to hear at first. But it’s become a mindset, and I’m now focused
on staying strong throughout that time. Most of my pain is now gone, and I
actually look forward to going back to Rochester whenever I have to because it’s
a great city with great people and great health care providers.”

Because
of the care she received, Pat says now there’s no question in her mind where
she’ll come for all of her health care needs. “I’ll always choose Mayo
Clinic from here on out, regardless of where I live,” she says. “The
communication between departments, the transparency, the honesty, the care and compassion
of the staff, the results — all of it’s second to none.”


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Fri, Aug 9 5:00am · After Setback, Kaidra's Cancer Journey Continues With Family, Friends and Mayo Clinic by Her Side

Kaidra Froelich was terrified by the brain cancer diagnosis that brought her to Mayo Clinic. But her expert surgical team got rid of the tumor. Then the disease came back. Now Kaidra and her Mayo team are determined to beat the cancer a second time as her family and friends rally around her.

Kaidra Froelich was terrified by the brain cancer diagnosis that brought her to Mayo Clinic. But her expert surgical team got rid of the tumor. Then the disease came back. Now Kaidra and her Mayo team are determined to beat the cancer a second time as her family and friends rally around her.




Giuseppe Lanzino, M.D., opened the door to the presurgery area and scanned the room. There, a few feet in front of him, was his patient, 29-year-old Kaidra Froelich, breastfeeding her 6-month-old daughter. The sight of mother and daughter froze the Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon where he stood. “Seeing that broke my heart,” he says. But it also redoubled his motivation to remove the glioma brain stem tumor that had brought Kaidra to Mayo Clinic just days earlier.

Before
her diagnosis, Kaidra, who lives in Bismarck, North Dakota, had built a
successful life for herself. A wife, mother, daughter and friend, Kaidra was
enjoying her family, her friends and her career as an elementary school
physical education teacher. She spent her summers on softball fields and at her
family’s lake house in Minnesota.

Kaidra’s world began to change, however, when she started feeling numbness on the right side of her body. As she considered her symptoms, Kaidra’s thoughts immediately went to a dark place. “I went in to see my primary care doctor, and I told her, ‘I either have multiple sclerosis, or I have a tumor that’s pressing on my nerves,'” Kaidra says. “She was like: ‘Whoa, whoa, just relax. Don’t think that craziness.”’

Kaidra couldn’t shake her fear as she waited for the results of a blood test and MRI. “My doctor called me two hours after the MRI and asked me to come back in,” Kaidra says. “We all went in — my husband and my two young girls came with me — and she said: ‘You do have brain cancer. There’s a glioma on your brain stem, and you need to start driving to Mayo Clinic right now. I’ll call and get everything set up for you.'”

Facing her fears

Kaidra’s
mind began to spin. “At the time, I didn’t realize people can actually survive
a brain cancer diagnosis, so I went to Mayo Clinic scared to death that I’d be
dying soon,” she says.

That mindset began to change once Kaidra and family arrived at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, and they met Dr. Lanzino; his resident, Megan Kaszuba, M.D.; and the rest of the care team. “The first thing he wanted to do was meet my family. I couldn’t believe doctors at such a distinguished hospital like Mayo Clinic would do that kind of thing for their patients. I was like, ‘Do they do this with everyone here?'”

“I remember Dr. Lanzino coming over, putting his hands on my face, and saying, ‘Kaidra, everything is going to be OK.'”

Kaidra Froelich

The
first order of business was to confirm Kaidra’s diagnosis. “He wanted to
run some additional tests because the glioma wasn’t showing up brightly on my
MRI scans,” she says. “So he wasn’t confident that’s what it was, and
he didn’t want to perform surgery if it wasn’t.”

The
test results confirmed the tumor was a glioma, and it needed to be removed
right away. Surgery was scheduled for the next day.

“I
was scared out of my mind and bawling the entire time. But as they were giving
me the anesthesia, I remember Dr. Lanzino coming over, putting his hands on my
face, and saying, ‘Kaidra, everything is going to be OK.'” And when she
woke up a few hours later, it was. “When I came out of anesthesia, I could
feel and move everything,” Kaidra says. “I was very thankful and
relieved.”

Heartbreaking recurrence

After
surgery, life returned to normal for Kaidra and her family. It stayed that way
until one summer evening when, on a softball field in Bismarck, Kaidra started
having familiar symptoms. “I tried running to first base, but my right leg
wouldn’t move,” she says.

A
year before, almost to the day, Kaidra had first been diagnosed with her
glioma. She again feared the worst, despite her family’s attempts to reassure
her. “My mom and husband were like: ‘Your scans have been clear for six
months. Just relax.’ But I know my body. I knew the cancer was back.”

When
Dr. Lanzino called a few days later with the results of an MRI she’d had done
in Bismarck, Kaidra’s instincts once again were proven to be correct. “The
tumor had regrown in the exact same spot on my brain stem,” she says. “Dr.
Lanzino asked if I could come back to Mayo as soon as possible because we had
to get it out again.”

After
arriving at Mayo Clinic, Kaidra went through the same steps she’d done the year
before. Except this time, after another MRI, there was a new heartbreaking twist.

“After
the MRI, I met Drs. Lanzino and Kaszuba, and their nurses at the nurses
station,” Kaidra says. “They all had red eyes like they’d been
crying.” Kaidra soon would find out why. “They told me the MRI had
found six additional tumors on my spine.”

Kaidra
was emotionally overwhelmed. But she says she knew the doctors and nurses
standing around her were the best — and the ones she wanted by her side.

Steadfast support and care

As
Kaidra’s cancer battle continues now, she’s moving forward with an exacting
treatment plan laid out for her by Dr. Lanzino and her Mayo Clinic neuro-oncologist,
Michael Ruff, M.D.

“Last year, after my initial diagnosis, I did six weeks of radiation and low-dose chemotherapy, followed by another six months of high-dose chemo. I did really well on that treatment plan,” Kaidra says. “I recently had my first chemo infusion this time around, and I’m also scheduled for three weeks of proton beam radiation and more chemo after that to try and kill off some of these tumors on my spine.”

Although
she knows the road forward won’t be easy, she has confidence in her Mayo Clinic
team. “I think the biggest thing is I trust Drs. Lanzino and Ruff, and
everyone else on my care team with my life,” Kaidra says. “I just
want to be alive. That’s where I’m at right now.”  

It’s
also where the more than 1,800 members of her “Kaidra’s
Good Vibe Tribe
” Facebook group are at, too. “When
a friend of mine asked if he could create the group for me after my first diagnosis,
I thought: ‘I don’t know. Are people really going to be interested enough to
follow something like that?'” Kaidra says. “It’s been crazy to see
just how much people can come together. The love and support I’ve gotten from
people all over the world has been amazing.”

“Despite everything I’ve gone through, I feel blessed. I can’t imagine going anywhere else or having anyone else take care of me.”

Kaidra Froelich

Every bit as amazing, Kaidra says, is the unconditional support she’s received from her care team at Mayo Clinic throughout her journey. “I’m involved in other cancer-related groups, and other patients are saying things like, ‘My doctors told me to enjoy life because I only have one to three years left to live,'” Kaidra says. “I’ve never been told that at Mayo Clinic — not once. That alone has been very uplifting and positive for me.”

“Dr. Ruff has always said from the start that if plan A doesn’t work, we have plan B. And if plan B doesn’t work, we have plans C, D and E,” Kaidra continues. “There’s always something else in the back of his mind to try. He’s always researching things for me and talking to other doctors to try and get the best care possible for me. I’ve come to know other patients who also have Dr. Ruff, and he’s that same way with all of them. He’s right there in the front seat of this roller coaster with us.”

But
it’s a roller coaster Kaidra is ready to stop riding. “Everything that’s
happened to me so far has been rare,” she says. “So I’m thinking that
if everything that’s happening to me is rare, then I can be that rare patient
who beats it all. That’s exactly what I’ve told Drs. Lanzino and Ruff. I’ve
said, ‘I promise you that I will be your miracle.'”

Kaidra
knows there’s no better place for that than Mayo Clinic. “I love Mayo
Clinic and all of my doctors,” she says. “My entire care team has become
like family to me. Despite everything I’ve gone through, I feel blessed. I can’t
imagine going anywhere else or having anyone else take care of me.”

Her
care team can’t imagine that, either. “Kaidra’s an incredible person,”
Dr. Ruff says. “She’s the kind of person who makes you get up every day
and believe in what you are doing. We’re all in this together for her.”


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Wed, Aug 7 5:00am · Despite a Rare Blood Vessel Abnormality, Allison Dances On

When a cavernous malformation was discovered in her brain, Allison Nilsen turned to Mayo Clinic for answers. The care and treatment she's received at Mayo has allowed her to complete her college degree and continue doing what she loves.

When a cavernous malformation was discovered in her brain, Allison Nilsen turned to Mayo Clinic for answers. The care and treatment she’s received at Mayo has allowed her to complete her college degree and continue doing what she loves.




Allison
Nilsen has been dancing since she was 2 years old. And despite being diagnosed
with a rare medical condition known as a cavernous malformation, she’s not
planning to stop any time soon.

Cavernous malformations are abnormally formed blood vessels that can leak blood and cause bleeding. When they grow in the brain or spinal cord, symptoms may include weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking, severe headaches, vision changes and seizures.

When
Allison found out that she had a large cavernous malformation in her brain, she
thought she may need neurosurgery, and she learned the procedure could significantly
affect her ability to dance. Working with a care team at Mayo Clinic, however, Allison
found another way forward that has allowed her to continue pursuing her passion.

Mounting concern

When
Allison graduated from high school in Chesapeake, Virginia, in 2012, she decided
to take a gap year before heading off to college. During that time, she planned
to keep dancing with a company that she had performed and competed with in the
past.

But health concerns began to interfere with those plans. Allison had been having terrible migraines for two years. During the year after her graduation, the headaches were so severe that they landed her in the emergency department half a dozen times.

Then
while practicing for a dance competition in spring 2013, Allison noticed a
problem with her right foot. “It felt like it couldn’t keep up with my
left foot,” she says.

Allison and her mom, Teresa, shared that development with the local neurologist Allison had been seeing for her migraines. The neurologist recommended an MRI. Soon after Allison had the MRI, Teresa received a call from the neurologist directing her to take Allison to the emergency department immediately. The MRI imaging had revealed a cavernous malformation the size of a golf ball in Allison’s brain. The malformation was sitting on the motor strip that controls her right foot. It had bled and caused the weakness in that foot.

Weighing the options

At
the time of her diagnosis, Allison had received a dance scholarship to Jacksonville
University and planned to move to Florida, so she began researching specialists
in that area. She found James Meschia, M.D., a neurologist at Mayo Clinic in Florida and made an appointment to see
him.

During a consult in July 2013, Dr. Meschia evaluated Allison’s condition. He told her that treatment for cavernous malformation involved surgery — specifically a procedure known as awake craniotomy. Dr. Meschia prescribed Allison an anti-seizure medication and referred her to Mayo Clinic neurosurgeon Rabih Tawk, M.D.

During
her appointment with Dr. Tawk, Allison shared her love of dancing and strong
desire to complete her fine arts degree. He listened to her concerns and then explained
that, while the risk of the malformation bleeding again was between 1% and 6% a
year, it was possible to live with the condition for years. Dr. Tawk also
indicated that surgically removing malformations isn’t always the best solution
for every patient, and he believed that may be true in Allison’s case.

“(Dr. Tawk) is a good person with genuine concern. I could tell that he truly understood the impact a surgery could have on me and my dance career.”

Allison Nilsen

“After
looking at new imaging, I didn’t feel like the malformation had bled
significantly or increased in size,” Dr. Tawk says. “Because the
deficit to her foot was so minor, we had to weigh the risk that surgery could potentially
affect her ability to perform.”

Allison
appreciated his thoughtful consideration of the effect the surgery might have
on her. “Dr. Tawk is so thorough. He answers all your questions and doesn’t
talk down to you,” she says. “He is a good person with genuine
concern. I could tell that he truly understood the impact a surgery could have
on me and my dance career.”

Taking
such individual circumstances into account is part of the process, according to
Dr. Tawk. “Feeling your patient’s pain, and sharing their experience and
pain is important,” he says. “You have to think about a patient like
your own family.”

Seizing the opportunities

Based
on their discussions with Dr. Tawk, Allison and her mom decided against moving
forward with surgery at that time. Instead, they opted for Allison to be followed
closely with imaging until she finished college. Since then, that plan has
served her well.

In
2017, Allison graduated from Jacksonville University with a Bachelor of Fine
Arts degree in dance. Although she still takes medication for migraines,
Allison hasn’t had any further symptoms from the cavernous malformation, and
surgery hasn’t been necessary.

Today,
Allison is happily continuing her dance career and indulging in other creative
pursuits. She teaches dance at a studio in Jacksonville and sells her original
paintings online. Her dream is to open her own dance studio one day. She’s
thankful for all the opportunities she has to continue doing what she loves.

“I
think that when something devastating happens, it makes you appreciate
everything more,” Allison says. “I’m grateful that I’m here and am
taking advantage of whatever time I have before I need to have surgery — to
teach, perform and enjoy my life.”


HELPFUL LINKS

Mon, Aug 5 5:00am · Beating Melanoma is a Family Affair for the Devans

When Doug and Byron Devan were diagnosed with melanoma, the son and father turned to Mayo Clinic to help them fight the disease. Their physician recommended innovative immunotherapy treatment, and now both men are in remission.
Doug Devan, Roxana Dronca, M.D., and Byron Devan.

When Doug and Byron Devan were diagnosed with melanoma, the son and father turned to Mayo Clinic to help them fight the disease. Their physician recommended innovative immunotherapy treatment, and now both men are in remission.




Even before he had his own experience receiving care at Mayo Clinic, Doug Devan of Orange City, Florida, had always associated the health care organization with hope.

“Growing
up in Illinois, we had a family friend who had an illness for years, and the
local doctors couldn’t pin it down,” Doug says. “She went to Mayo
Clinic, and they fixed it in three days. I’ve heard quite a few stories like
that about Mayo over the years.”

Now
Doug, who is a commercial airline pilot, and his father, Byron, who is a
retired U.S. Air Force pilot, have Mayo Clinic stories of their own to share.

Over
the years, the two suspected that they might be at increased risk for skin
cancers because of the extended time they spent as pilots flying at high
altitudes with increased exposure to ultraviolet rays. But only recently did
that risk become a reality — for both of them.

New tools in the toolbox

Doug’s diagnosis of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, came first. But after he took some time to digest the news, he didn’t question his chances of survival. Instead, he took steps to ensure he had the best odds possible. “When you hear that diagnosis — stage 3 melanoma — it makes you sit down and take a big gulp of air,” Doug says. “But I’m a positive person, and they have new tools in the toolbox to fix this.”

But as Doug traveled to medical centers across Florida, he didn’t hear much about immunotherapy, and other new or nonsurgical techniques for treating his melanoma. He had one surgery to remove a small mass from his neck, but the tumors returned. The next step, he was told, was a surgical technique called a total neck dissection, followed by radiation therapy.

Doug
worried the treatment might affect his career as a pilot. “With surgery,
there’s a risk of nerve damage. I was concerned that it might restrict the
mobility in my neck and interfere with my ability to interact with the public,
which is part of our job as pilots,” Doug says. “I thought we could
try something else first, and the surgery could always be an option if our
first choice didn’t work.”

“About 45% to 50% of melanoma patients respond to these therapies. … They work especially well for patients like Doug, whose disease burden was not too high when he came to us for treatment.”

Roxana Dronca, M.D.

Looking for alternatives, in spring 2018, Doug called Mayo Clinics Florida campus. Three days later, he had an appointment with Roxana Dronca, M.D., a medical oncologist and immunotherapy expert who has performed pioneering research on the treatment of melanoma. Dr. Dronca was impressed with Doug’s proactive approach to his condition. And his hopes for his medical treatment were consistent with her own experiences as a physician and researcher.

“Melanoma
has become a sort of poster child for the effectiveness of checkpoint
inhibitors, which are immunotherapy drugs that block a tumor cell’s ability to
hide from our immune system,” Dr. Dronca says. “About 45% to 50% of
melanoma patients respond to these therapies. Research here at Mayo Clinic and
other centers show they work especially well for patients like Doug, whose
disease burden was not too high when he came to us for treatment.”

But even Dr. Dronca was surprised by Doug’s response to the treatment. He experienced no side effects, and after the first round of infusions, Doug noticed he could no longer feel swelling in the lymph nodes in his neck. An ultrasound confirmed how well the therapy had worked. It showed no evidence of detectable cancer.

“I
was so happy when I saw his scan results,” Dr. Dronca says. “We can
keep Doug on this treatment indefinitely, but our current plan is to continue
it for two years. Based on the literature and what we know from our research,
he has a 95% chance of staying in complete remission for years after completing
immunotherapy.”

Like son, like father

About the same time that Doug received the good news about his treatment, Byron learned he would be starting his own journey through melanoma. For years, Byron had been under the care of an oncologist near his home in in Edgewater, Florida, to monitor a nodule in his lung. A scan showed that the nodule had grown and spread to other parts of his lung. Biopsy results indicated that the nodule was melanoma.

As
soon as he heard the news, Byron called Doug, who was at Mayo Clinic. Doug
shared the news and biopsy results with Dr. Dronca, and she told them to make
an appointment for Byron as soon as possible. After some additional testing,
Dr. Dronca confirmed Byron had metastatic melanoma that had spread from his
lung to his liver and lymph nodes. She also learned that his tumor type had a
genetic mutation, called BRAF. That information gave them an additional
treatment option because there is a cancer therapy that specifically targets
this mutation. But Dr. Dronca decided to keep that as a second option.

“We
have some evidence that targeted therapies can in the long run increase a
cancer’s resistance to therapies, and those therapies can have more significant
side effects, which is a concern for elderly patients,” Dr. Dronca says. “So
I believed he was a good candidate for the same treatment that Doug received,
and we could always try a targeted therapy after that.”

The value of listening

Byron
received his first infusion on Dec. 26, 2018, and now he is in complete
remission. Although Byron experienced side effects — including atrial
fibrillation, which Mayo Clinic cardiologists are managing in collaboration
with Dr. Dronca — he doesn’t require any cancer treatment at this time. For
now, he is focused on exercising and getting stronger.

“I’m
not a fatalist,” Byron says. “I figured Doug had successful
treatment, and I can do the same thing. I’m looking forward to doing some
traveling and being cancer-free in five years.”

Dr.
Dronca says Byron’s response to the therapy is perhaps even more surprising
than Doug’s, but there is evidence to support the result he’s experiencing. “We
used to think our immune system ages, and it’s harder to reactivate as we grow
older,” she says. “But it seems our immune system is better trained
because we have seen so many antigens and foreign things throughout life. My
oldest patient is 98, and she has responded very well. So, clearly, age has
nothing to do with it.”

“I’m so thrilled with their results, and they really keep me going to do more research and get results like theirs for more patients.”

Roxana Dronca, M.D.

Both
Doug and Byron describe Dr. Dronca as the consummate physician. But she
describes herself simply as “a Mayo Clinic physician.” And to her,
that’s measured by more than just outcomes.

“To
me, Doug and Byron are about our primary value: putting the needs of the
patient first,” Dr. Dronca says. “We are trained to spend time with our
patients, talk to them and listen to what their goals are. If you cure someone’s
cancer, and they aren’t able to go on with life the way they want to, the cure
loses a lot of its meaning. I’m so thrilled with their results, and they really
keep me going to do more research and get results like theirs for more
patients.”


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