In 1998, I worked in the U.S. Congress with plans for law school. After some symptoms, I had an MRI to discover a brain tumor. Since then, I had my first awake brain surgery at the National Institutes of Health in 1998, and then my second awake brain surgery at the University of California, San Francisco, in 2011. During that time, I had a Grade II oligoastrocytoma. But in 2013, my MRI showed faster growth and appeared to be a Grade III anaplastic astrocytoma.
As I researched treatments, I knew about the University of California, Los Angeles, for its excellence and innovation. Also, I was aware of UCLA clinical trials on brain tumor patients for immunotherapy on a dendritic cell-based vaccine called DCVac. The trials focused on glioblastoma patients, but some included anaplastic astrocytoma patients.
I decided to have my third awake brain surgery at UCLA and was eligible for DCVax. As a result, on November 19, 2013, Linda Liau, MD, PhD, MBA, applied brilliance for my third awake brain surgery.
My UCLA neuro-oncologist Dr. Timothy Cloughesy explained the pathology report and the next steps. As a result. I had radiation and oral chemotherapy with Temodar for the first time. I began those therapies on February 11, 2014.
Thankfully, my MRIs at the end of April 2014 showed improvements. Dr. Cloughesy and I were pleased. During May and June 2014, I participated in the immunotherapy clinical trial with a dendritic cell-based vaccine.
In October 2014, I attended the UCLA Neurosurgery Visionary Ball to raise money for the facility. At the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, over 800 people attended the event giving significant donations for research. I was privileged to deliver my speech to the audience with strong messages about my brain tumor journey since 1998, my experiences at UCLA with my neurosurgeon Dr. Liau, the dendritic cell-based vaccine clinical trial, and other details about a top-notch hospital.
As I know and have witnessed in others, people dealing with brain tumors endure an intense journey. For many, tenacity and bravery are required to find the best solutions possible. On June 14, 2015, I received a Tenacious Bravery Award from the UCLA Brain Tumor Program at Golden Portal Awards in Beverly Hills. I was humbled as I know the internal drive of many brain tumor patients that gives us clarity and hope.
On March 18, 2018, I became a 20-year brain tumor survivor. I was incredibly grateful to be here alive and thriving. I put together a video about my brain tumor story, including some of the important things I discovered about integrative cancer care for the whole person.
Some aspects of life can be tricky, even with new information and undesired expectations. In the fall of 2018, at 45 years old, my first colonoscopy showed I had many large polyps. As a result, I was sent to meet with a UCLA genetic counselor and had genetic testing. Results explain I have a MUTYH gene from my family history, primarily related to colon cancer and potentially other cancer types. I need to continue with new knowledge and track appointments and other components.
Indeed, I continued to track my health and disease for optimal survival. In the spring of 2022, my endometrial surgery removing unexpected polyps showed through the radiologist's report that I had a precancerous lesion. A hysterectomy in June 2022 removed my uterus and two other factors. All is well, and I need to track my situation.
Life can be seen as a gift. I am profoundly grateful to have received treatments at UCLA, especially as a brain tumor survivor. I continue to praise Dr. Linda Liau and Dr. Timothy Cloughesy for their outstanding excellence. I know other UCLA brain tumor patients, including some glioblastoma multiforme patients, who continue to live from the DCVax immunotherapy dendritic cell-based vaccine clinical trial and other treatments. In the future, when DCVax is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), more brain tumor patients will have the capacity to improve their quality of life and survival.
To learn more about my brain tumor journey, visit My Cancer Story. You can also explore my extensive educational website at jeanninewalston.com and some details about my work, such as being a Cancer Coach, Consultant, and Speaker.