After being diagnosed with a Lymphoma-type cancer in 2016, Maria’s life changed dramatically. She went from being an established hairdresser in Melrose to being a full-time patient. Her son Robert is now living with her and caring for her.
Over the past two years Maria has had all types of scans (PET scans, MRI scans, ultrasounds) and tests of all sorts. She is still smiling and able to look at the whole situation with a clear eye.
Maria just finished a 15-course treatment of radiation. Radiation treatments these days include precise positioning and intense aiming of the radiation beam at the cancer, avoiding the normal tissue next door. In Maria’s case, the cancer was in her neck with normal brain tissue within millimeters of the tumor. The treatment required that she be bolted to a table with a mask over her face for 20 minutes. Even the slightest movement during the treatment could result in damage to her brain. She describes the ordeal as frightening and uncomfortable.
She has also had many rounds of a chemotherapy “cocktail” that she receives by infusion. She travels to Boston for each 10-hour infusion. Over the next weeks she becomes ill and weak and requires much more care.
Cancer care today is amazing. I have the privilege of being able to attend conferences where experts discuss what the latest data shows and what exact treatment would be best for each specific patient. Cancer treatments change from week to week. The data for every oncology department throughout the world is constantly being fed into computers, and treatments are being tailored with increasing mathematical certainty for each different type. If a certain gene mutation is found to have a better response to a particular drug in California, then that blood test will affect the type of medication for a similar patient in England.
Maria just finished her radiation treatments for the summer. The chemotherapy will be continuing but now every 3 – 4 months instead of every month.
Maria has asked that her story be told and that if anyone wants to speak with her, she would be happy to share what she has learned and possibly help someone else get through cancer care.