Salem High School Class of 1959
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Salem High School Class of 1959 - Latest News

04-02-2016 - Update on Karen Klein Whelan
Family and friends of Karen,
Mom has had some changes in her cancer over the past few months.

In November, her regular 3-month CT scans showed 4 lesions in her brain – 1 large tumor and 3 small ones. This means the cancer from her lungs has spread to her brain, though this is not a new type of cancer. They are now calling her cancer stage 4. This cancer in her brain has the same properties as the lung cancer because it is lung cancer. The cancer cells are in Mom’s blood and have the possibility to be transported to any part of her body. This cancer is not curable, but treatable. The new treatment recommended at this stage was a whole brain radiation where the whole brain would be radiated, hoping to eradicate any showing tumors and any additional tumors that didn’t show up in the original scan.

Mom did this whole brain radiation treatment over a 10-day period in December. She continued with her chemo treatment, that she has been doing for the last 6 years, at the same time. She has had to wait for 3 months before scanning the brain with a new CT scan to see if the radiation was effective. This was done a couple weeks ago. This new scan has shown that the 3 small tumors have disappeared, or are not growing. The original large tumor in the brain has shrunk. But there was a showing of 2 new tumors that are located on top of each other in the frontal lobe of the brain.

This same CT scan of the brain showed that her lungs are stable. That means that the cancer in her lungs has not grown in over a year.

Many doctor appointments were made to understand where this news leaves mom’s condition.

Dr. Liao (primary oncologist who has been with mom the whole time) recommends that mom should continue with her chemo treatment with two of the three drugs she has been taking. This will keep the lungs in the stable condition. The brain tumors will be treated with the gamma knife radiation procedure where the rays will be pointed directly at the tumor mass with an intense amount of radiation. The procedure will reduce the impact on healthy brain tissue by bypassing tissue and going right the tumor. This procedure is in the scheduling process, probably to be done later next month.

The biggest concern mom has with continued treatment is the side effects it would trigger. The gamma treatment should have minimal side effects, compared to the whole brain radiation. Mom wasn’t wild about more radiation as her body didn’t tolerate it well. Some possible symptoms from this new gamma knife treatment are loss of hair, dizziness, tiredness, headaches, and nausea. But these side effects should be less than what she experiences with her chemo treatments. Longer term effects could be memory loss and motor function could be impaired due to where the tumors are located.

The gamma knife treatment can be done multiple times to treat the current tumors showing, or any new tumors that show up.
The radiologist, Dr. Mazloom, and Dr. Liao both indicated that the gamma knife treatment will prolong life, but not cure it. They both gave a time frame of 1-year of life even with the gamma treatment. If no gamma treatment and no chemo, then her life span would be about 2 months.

A question was asked if mom chooses to do the gamma knife treatment should she stop the chemo treatment for her cancer in the lungs. Dr. Liao recommended not to; that she should continue with her current chemo treatment. If the gamma knife treatment is effective, but then mom’s lungs filled with cancer, then she would be no better off. He recommends that the chemo treatment of cancer in the lungs should continue in conjunction with the gamma treatment for the cancer in her brain. The combination would give mom the best results for longer life.

Because the Abraxton chemo drug has been so hard on mom, the dr. said she could stop that particular drug but continue with the Tarceva (oral drug taken every other day) and Avastin (injected every other week).

That being said, Dr. Liao reminded us that Mom isn’t a “typical” patient. She was given 6 months to live in her original diagnosis. That was over 6 years ago. Mom’s body has been very responsive to the chemo treatment that Dr. Liao had prescribed. Dr. Liao feels that the gamma treatment could actually keep the current tumors from growing and the chemo treatment will keep tumors from growing in the lungs. He feels this is the best course of action for Mom.

After meeting as family, Mom has decided to continue with her chemo treatment for her cancer in the lungs and try the gamma knife treatment for the tumor in her brain. We will keep you posted on the results of this treatment in about 3 months when the next CT scan would be done.

Thank you for continuing to lift mom and Dad up in prayers through this long treatment process. The whole family would appreciate your prayers for healing to continue and that the new gamma knife treatment would be effective.

Serving a great God,
Shauna Essman (2nd daughter of Skip and Karen)

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