Surviving a skull base tumor

In March 2014, I tried to connect a boat trailer to my minivan, ploughed head-first into the closed tailgate and really hurt my neck. An X-ray showed I hadn’t broken my neck, but the doctors saw something near the back of my brain, at the base of my skull. A CT scan confirmed it was a tumor. The doctor was elated because he found it before I had any symptoms. I had mixed emotions, and it took a while to process the news. After many tests and several weeks in the hospital, we knew I had a tumor in my skull, at the base of my brain on the right side. But even after two needle biopsies, the doctors couldn’t diagnose the type of tumor or decide how to treat it. Within 14 months, I’d begun experiencing major symptoms — constant pain in my neck and head, weak legs, and an inability to walk or rise from a chair without assistance. Even a gentle cough could cause me to pass out if I didn’t lie down immediately. One day, the symptoms didn’t go away after I coughed. I ended up having emergency surgery to install a ventriculoperitoneal shunt to relieve pressure from the cerebrospinal fluid buildup in my brain caused by the tumor. Afterwards, I finally received a diagnosis: clear cell chondrosarcoma. The neurosurgeon stated that the best he could do was to surgically remove some of the tumor and move me to the palliative ward. On the road to skull base tumor treatment at MD Anderson A friend who happened to be a retired physician researched treatments and...

Cervical cancer survivor becomes a mother, thanks to fertility-sparing treatment

After being diagnosed with stage IB cervical cancer in October 2012, Allison Pozzi consulted four different specialists near her San Francisco Bay home. Every one of them said she needed a hysterectomy, which would’ve prevented the 35-year-old from ever becoming pregnant. “My husband and I were newlyweds — and I’d had a miscarriage shortly before my diagnosis — so it was incredibly hard to think that this experience was being taken away from us,” Allison says. “We couldn’t believe these hospital systems couldn’t come up with anything better. With me being so healthy and the tumor being so small, it just didn’t seem possible that such an aggressive measure could be the only option.” Fifth opinion leads to MD Anderson Then Allison got a tip from another cervical cancer survivor, who recommended she reach out to Pedro Ramirez, M.D., at MD Anderson. Ramirez called Allison back within a few hours. He told her that a hysterectomy probably wasn’t necessary and that he and MD Anderson were well-versed in less-invasive options with successful outcomes. “I already had four experts’ opinions, but I didn’t like what they were saying,” Allison says. “With Dr. Ramirez, we finally got the opportunity we wanted with the experience we trusted.” A fertility-sparing cervical cancer treatment Allison’s faith in Ramirez was reinforced when she met him in person. After completing his examination, Ramirez recommended only a trachelectomy, a surgical procedure in which most of the cervix is removed. The edges of the uterus are then pulled together and sutured with a purse-string stitch. Allison would still be able to menstruate, but her uterus would remain cinched...