Saturday, December 5, 2009


This afternoon I had an incredible opportunity that humbled me. My dear friend Judy had arranged for several of us to get a private tour of The Ben and Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment at Swedish Providence. There Dr. Greg Foltz, pictured, shared with us the work the Center is doing in treating and testing cures for those diagnosed with glioblastoma (brain cancer). Judy's passion around the subject is inspired by her friend Deb, a sweet, wonderful woman with whom I recently made acquaintance, who is currently in battle with a glioblastoma. Deb and her husband Dick joined the tour along with several other of her friends. Deb is currently being treated for her own glioblastoma, an aggressive, incurable (though remissionable) brain cancer.

I was blown away by the progress that has been made in the last three years in finding treatments for this disease. Three years ago, my dear friend Anne lost her 20 year old son, Hunter, to a glioblastoma. He died within a year and a half of diagnosis. Another friend Sharon's son, also in his twenties, is currently undergoing treatment, and doing promisingly well with new experimental treatment.

This cancer is usually diagnosed in an emergency room, presented by a seizure or extreme headache. Surgery is done within days. Prognosis is typically months to a year-and-a-half. There is no cure. Yet.

But Dr. Foltz and his team are doing incredible things. We were actually taken into the labs, just doors away from the patient center, where removed tumors are taken immediately from the surgery room. The cells go through genetic sorting and classification. It's all rather unfathomable, complex and awe-inspiring. For a few instances, in that lab, I felt like I was in a scene from some futuristic Science Fiction flick.

There are only about 20,000 diagnosed cases of glioblastoma each year. Each the result of a unique genetic marker. The research and treatment done here is uniquely designed on the patterns revealed in the lab. While all this is going on, back on the patient side, the patients and family are provided with, what Dr. Foltz described as "Four Seasons Level Care." From the waiting room, with alcoves designed for family intimacy and privacy, to the "concierge" responsible for patient and family assistance in dealing with all the intricacies of dealing with such unexpected devastating news, everything is done with such elegant care and respect.

I have never before met (or even heard of) a physician with more compassion for his patients, more compassion for finding a cure, more passion for bringing hope where most have given up.


You can read more about the center and Dr. Foltz here, and here.

No comments: