"You’re on top of the world when you can have your tumor removed like this."
Outpatient Brain Surgery Gives MidMichigan Patient a New Outlook on Life
Beaverton resident Beverly Whitmer has been “on top of the world” since undergoing Gamma Knife® treatment at MidMichigan Medical Center in Midland.
In early 2004, Whitmer developed a chronic cough and severe headaches that did not respond to treatments from her family physician or chiropractor. After several frustrating weeks, she went to the emergency room at MidMichigan, where doctors discovered a malignant tumor in her brain. Because malignant brain tumors are often indicators of cancer elsewhere in the body, doctors performed additional tests. When they found another tumor in Whitmer’s lung, she was diagnosed as having lung cancer with brain metastases.
Within two weeks, Whitmer underwent surgery at MidMichigan to remove the brain tumor. (Doctors also performed a biopsy of the tumor in her lung, which was found to be malignant; it was removed during a later surgery.) Although the brain tumor could not be completely excised with traditional surgical methods, the neurosurgeon told Whitmer that the remaining portion could be eliminated with the Gamma Knife.
“I’d never heard of the Gamma Knife, but I didn’t ask questions,” said Whitmer. “I just told the doctor, ‘I’m game for anything you’ve got for me.’ I really just thought it was a knife.”
So it came as a surprise when Gamma Knife Nurse Coordinator Dennis Ouillette, R.N., showed Whitmer a film explaining the Gamma Knife treatment. “It totally was not what I expected,” said Whitmer. “I expected a knife. Instead, I found out it was this helmet with holes all over it!”
The Gamma Knife uses 201 intersecting beams of radiation to deliver a single, high dose of radiation to a brain tumor or other abnormality. The radiation is delivered through a helmet placed around the patient’s head during the procedure. Most patients undergo Gamma Knife treatment as an outpatient and are able to resume normal activities within hours or days.
MidMichigan is one of only three hospitals in the state of Michigan to offer this advanced treatment tool.
“You’d think you’d have to go a long ways away for this type of treatment. A lot of people told me to go somewhere else,” said Whitmer. “But the doctor made me feel so at ease that night in the emergency room. So I thought, ‘I’m not going anywhere else. Why go somewhere else?’ And I am so glad I stayed here in Midland.”
Whitmer continued by saying that she “shocked” the town of Beaverton by undergoing such a revolutionary procedure. Residents of the small community, along with Whitmer’s family, rallied around her in the days surrounding the Gamma Knife treatment.
“Everyone was rooting for me to get through this,” she said. “Then I turned around and shocked them even more, because I’m still here!”
In March 2006, Whitmer celebrated two years of being tumor-free. “I look at life so much differently now,” she said. “You’re on top of the world when you can have your tumor removed like this.”
Support for the Gamma Knife at MidMichigan came from the following local foundations: The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, The Dow Chemical Company Foundation, Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation, Midland Area Community Foundation, The Charles J. Strosacker Foundation, The Harry A. and Margaret D. Towsley Foundation, and the Gift Shop Service of MidMichigan Medical Center—Midland.
Beverly Whitmer’s story is just one example of MidMichigan’s advanced technology and physician expertise. If you or a family member have brain metastases as a result of breast or lung cancer, ask your doctor for a referral to a MidMichigan neurosurgeon or radiation oncologist, or call our Gamma Knife Coordinator toll-free at (866) 644-2662. Online, visit www.midmichigan.org/gammaknife.
Gamma Knife® is a registered trademark of Elekta Group