Slovakian woman sees life in new light after protons defeat rare sinus tumor

This is Part 2 of Gabriela’s story. Part 1 is here !
Recently married and in the second year of her career as a skincare sales representative, 31-year-old Gabriela Jágerská was shaken by her doctors’ discovery: A malignant tumor nearly the size of a tennis ball was growing in the sinus area on the right side of her face.

Gabriela’s physicians in Bratislava, Slovakia, deemed surgery just too risky. As Gabriela endured two courses of chemotherapy, she and her husband awaited an assessment from physicians at the Proton Therapy Center Czech in Prague.

“When you talk with the doctors there, they’re not talking to you about ‘you’ll be healthy again,’” says Gabriela. “They said it will be one year or two years before they’re sure the cancer is gone.”

Gabriela appreciated the candid and caring discussions she and her husband had with her physicians. Considering the very limited treatment options to treat her rare sinus carcinoma, protons offered Gabriela the hope of “a normal life, like before cancer happened,” she says.

Gabriela took a leave from her work in Slovakia and, with her husband, moved from their home to Prague, Czech Republic, for two months to undergo proton treatments and four rounds of chemotherapy.

“It was great for us to be together in the moment,” Gabriela recalls. “Prague at Christmas was beautiful. We talked about our lives. We talked about my life coming to an end. We were really open. Even as I talk about it now, I’m a little scared.”

Proton therapy was hard for Gabriela, physically and mentally. Proton beams were fired into Gabriela’s face and neck where there are lots of nerves and lymph nodes. Her face ballooned from the radiation burns. She could barely eat or drink. “It was the worst pain in my life,” she remembers.

They returned home at the end of January 2014 and Gabriela weathered the harsh, lingering side effects of the proton treatments and chemotherapy.

“I still couldn’t eat,” she says. “And my face was so big. And I just needed to lay down and sleep.” After about three months of recuperation, Gabriela was beginning to feel more like normal.

“It’s good I am working for this company,” Gabriela says. “I can see how our skin care products are really helping people. They really helped treat the radiation burn I had on my face. After two or three weeks, it went away. And now I have better skin on my face than before my treatment.”

Gabriela returned to her job in July, six months after her proton treatments ended. She was grateful that the company she works for gave her the leeway to listen to her body and ease back into her sales calls. “My CEO, my managers and my colleagues said to me: ‘Don’t worry about work; if you feel tired, go home. Rest and don’t worry about it,’” says Gabriela.

“Today, I feel more like before,” Gabriela says. “I can see. I have some small pain in my face. But every day gets better. Cancer opened my eyes to what is important in life. I’m trying to be happy every day. Because the sun is out. Because my dogs — and people I love — are happy. One day at a time, that’s my motto.”

Skincare sales rep embraces work and family following proton treatments in Prague

With stylish gradient sunglasses adorning her face, 31-year-old Gabriela Jágerská is back behind the wheel of her Volkswagon Polo, driving the lush, forested highways of central Slovakia to meet with health care professionals.

Gabriela figures she puts as much as 4,000 kilometers, or nearly 2,500 miles, a month on her company car traveling to about 200 sales calls from her home in Banska Bystrica, where she lives with her husband and their dogs.

Long hours on the road can be a drag for some people. Not Gabriela.

Driving from clinic to clinic is part of the job she loves as a medical representative for a skincare pharmaceuticals company. Gabriela’s customers include dermatologists, pediatricians, allergists and pharmacists.

Gabriela says she gets great satisfaction from helping medical professionals better treat skin conditions like acne, dermatitis, rosacea and psoriasis and help restore a person’s self-image and quality of life. And Gabriela’s career permits plenty of quality time with her family.

But in September 2013, not long after her wedding, Gabriela put her job — and her life — on hold.

The right side of Gabriela’s face had become swollen. And she experienced terrible tooth pain. But her teeth were not the problem.

Doctors in Bratislava identified an aggressive tumor growing in the sinus area of Gabriela’s face. It was 5.5 by 5.5 centimeters in size, slightly smaller than a tennis ball.

Surgery was considered. However, with the operation came a significant risk of blindness to her right eye. And doing nothing to fight the cancer would be worse.

“In that moment, I was not thinking about the job — if I can even go back to work — I was thinking of my life and what’s best for me,” Gabriela says.

Gabriela’s physicians decided surgery was not a good option for her. Instead, she received two courses of chemotherapy in Slovakia to put the tumor in check, at least for the short term.

“Here in Slovakia, this kind of cancer is very rare,” she says. “Thank God we have Google. We started to look for what is best for me.”

Gabriela and her husband learned of proton treatments being conducted at the Proton Therapy Center Czech in Prague.

“My doctors in Bratislava talked to the doctors in Prague,” she says. “In Prague, they knew about this cancer more. They had been successful treating patients with it.”


The second part of  Gabriela’s story will be out soon, keep up !

WEB REVIEW – Ruby Hodgson’s parents face devastating news

Brave 4-year-old Ruby Hodgson will need surgery again, after her tumor returned for the third time.

After being first diagnosed in 2011 at just 22 months old, Ruby has already battled back from numerous operations, intensive chemotherapy, a stomach bug infection that left her life hanging in a balance, and a course of pioneering proton therapy in Florida, America in 2013.

Ruby had three MRI scans since returning from America, which all showed no evidence of the tumor returning. But sadly, after her five month routine scan last week, her parents received the devastating news that her tumor had returned for a third time. “So once again our little princess will face a very tough couple of weeks and have further surgery to remove the tumor”, they said.

Hundreds of messages of support for the inspirational 4-year-old flooded the Ruby’s Gift Facebook page on Sunday. “Many thanks for your messages of support, we do read each and every one of them and we draw strength from them.”


WEB REVIEW – Teen hopeful thanks to proton therapy

Natalie Wright, 17, of Provo, Utah is hopeful the completion of proton therapy she received at a San Diego hospital will curb the growth of her tumor. Natalie was the first teen to finish the treatment at the hospital.

When Natalie was 2, a walnut-sized tumor was found above her brain stem after her parents noticed she was drooling a lot and had trouble swallowing. A few days later, doctors removed most of the tumor but some pieces were inoperable. Over the next decade and a half, she underwent two more operations, which left her without the ability to swallow and without sight and hearing on her left side.

Cancer patients usually have three options for treatment: surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Most children do not receive radiation because it may affect parts of their bodies that are still developing. Natalie’s dad also became aware of proton therapy as a fourth option, but with only two facilities in the nation using it at the time, this was not an option for their family.

In 2014, the Wrights learned that Natalie’s tumor had again grown. The growth of proton therapy clinics allowed Natalie to be treated at the Rady Children’s Hospital at Scripps Proton Therapy Center in San Diego, which opened earlier this year. She finished her final treatment last week and said she felt good overall through the six-week treatment. The tumor is still there, but Natalie, her parents and her doctor are hopeful they have stopped its growth. It will take up to five years for the family to find out whether proton therapy stopped the tumor’s growth.

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WEB REVIEW – Raising awareness of melanoma

A woman with melanoma is sharing her story in hopes of raising awareness about her disease, one of the most serious forms of skin cancer, affecting young adults.

“I assumed it was so easy to take care of”, Tara Miller told herself when she discovered a bump behind her ear. But it was something much more serious than the 29-year-old would have ever imagined. The stage IV melanoma diagnosis was a shock, as Tara had always made a point of getting yearly skin checks, and applying sunscreen whenever she went outside.

Doctors figured it started from a mole. 11 months later, it had turned into 14 brain tumors and four spots in her lungs and lymph nodes. “I think the perception of melanoma is just something on the skin and maybe you can have it removed, but it’s a much more serious and deadly form of cancer that I think people underestimate”, said her twin sister Lauren.

“It all started a week after I was diagnosed. I had my first surgery July 17th, which was a diagnostic surgery. And then I had three craniotomies, four rounds of Gamma Knife Radiation, six weeks of Proton therapy, three weeks of whole brain radiation and four rounds of immune therapy drug,” Tara said.

Tara, who is a lawyer by trade, has started a foundation that she hopes will help educate people about this deadly disease and raise much needed dollars for additional research. Last month, the Tara Miller Melanoma Foundation held its first, “Make the Best of it Bash!”. More than 700 people attended.



House inspector kept scaling roofs during prostate cancer treatment

For 13 years, no rooftop was too tall for George Groeber to climb and inspect. He’d figure out a way to get up there. He had to.

He knew families counted on him to be sure the biggest financial investment of their lives — a new home — was structurally sound and safe from top to bottom. And that they’re getting what they’re paying for.

When George was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October 2013, he wondered if he would ever retain the physical stamina to inspect houses in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and its suburbs.

He was pretty confident he would lick his prostate cancer. It wasn’t that far along.

But the cancer treatment he was considering was another matter.

“The urologist that gave me the news promptly talked about robotic surgery,” says the 66-year-old resident of Newtown Square, Pennsylvania. “And that’s where it was left. Everyone I talked to in the beginning were surgeons. And they were pushing robotics.”

But George found that robotic surgery would require a lengthy recovery period. In fact, he wouldn’t be able to haul around a 120-pound, fiberglass ladder and scale pitched roofs for several months. “What am I going to do without my ladder,” George asks. “What am I going to do with no income?”

More troubling to George were the potential side effects. Incontinence, in particular. It would be a huge hindrance once he could return to his job.

“I’m hopping like Spiderman from one roof to another, balancing and taking pictures,” George says. “Time out. I have to go change my Depends while I’m way up on this roof. It would be a lot of discomfort and inconvenience.”

Proponents of robotic surgery who advised him “glossed over” the incontinence, says George. “‘There’s a potential for it,’ they said,” George recalls, imitating the dismissive tone they took. “But I researched the percentages and they were an instant turnoff for me. I’m on the road all the time. I’m heading out at 7:30 in the morning and I’m back home by 6:30 at night. I never imagined my work day would required me to wear — and change — a diaper.”

Radiation therapy attracted George’s notice. “A couple of articles my wife and I had downloaded listed all the different kinds of radiation treatments out there,” he says. “And I just kept coming back to proton radiation. It doesn’t kill as many good cells. The chance of side effects is less. And the thought of this beam going to this specific area and energizing that one spot…it’s a no-brainer.”

George obtained an information packet from Loma Linda University Medical Center’s Proton Treatment and Research Center in Loma Linda, California. It included a copy of Bob Marckini’s book, You Can Beat Prostate Cancer. “I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough,” George says.

He telephoned men who had received proton therapy at Loma Linda. And they all shared positive experiences similar to those Marckini describes in his book. Their personal endorsements and reassurance about few major side effects helped cement George’s choice.

And then, his decision was made all the sweeter when George found there was a proton center just a 25-minute drive from his home. “At Penn,” George says, the most respected medical center in all of Philadelphia.

“The moment I walked onto the fourth floor there and met with the fantastic staff, it was such a warm, welcoming feeling,” says George. “It just reassured me I was making the right decision.”

George began proton treatments at PennMedicine’s Roberts Proton Therapy Center in January 2014. He was treated in the morning and scampering up rooftops in the afternoon. “I didn’t miss a day,” George says. “I was thrilled to keep doing my job.”

But with 16 proton treatments remaining, “where they narrow the proton beam to where the cancer is most dense, they said I might get tired later in the day,” he says. “So, I’d just go back to my truck and have a 10-minute power nap and be recharged.”

In July 2014, three months after George’s final proton beam treatment, “I got the good news my PSA had dropped from 4.1 down to 2.1,” he says. “So, I’ve been kind of like doing somersaults and high-fiving my family. I’m not used to saying, ‘I’m a cancer survivor.’ But it sounds pretty damn good to hear that.”




WEB REVIEW – PT center in the UK

The plans for a new £125m cutting-edge proton therapy center at The Christie Hospital in Manchester, UK have been unveiled. It will be the first of the country, and is expected to open in 2018.

Currently,  anyone seeking proton therapy on the NHS has to travel abroad to access it. The therapy is designed to limit side effects on patients, particularly children. It is hoped the center will allow more people than ever before to access the treatment.

The proton beam therapy unit will be built at the hospital’s Withington site under proposals submitted to Manchester council this week. Christie’s planning application reveals it would build a five-story center able of treating up to 750 people using high-energy beams to destroy cancer cells. This is part of the Christie’s long-term vision to lead cancer care and improve patient outcomes.


WEB REVIEW – English teacher battling cancer and insurance company

Carin Graber, an English teacher at Bonnabel High School in Kenner, Louisiana is battling both brain cancer and her insurance company.

After two prior surgeries, Carin’s doctor at MD Anderson in Texas wanted to try an advanced type of radiation called Proton Beam Therapy. “I think it’s probably about twice as expensive as normal radiation, but quite a bit safer for a cancer patient that has brain cancer,” said her husband Brian Graber.

Carin’s treatment is now on hold. Her insurance denied coverage saying there is insufficient scientific evidence to show improved health outcomes using this therapy. “It’s been around 50 years,” said Brian. “They’ve developed this into a state-of-the-art procedure. Most insurance companies cover this.”

Carin says her heart sunk when she got the denial notice.

“I believe if I were to lose anymore brain cells that I wouldn’t be able to live a normal life,” said Carin Graber. “I have trouble finding words and it’s already hard for me.”

The Grabers are now trying to raise the estimated $90,000 cost of the Proton Beam Therapy. If you can help, log on to


WEB REVIEW – Raising £40k for little boy’s US proton treatment

Jayden Nicol, a brave British six-year-old, has flown to the US to fight his cancer and undergo potentially life-saving proton therapy treatment after his family rallied to raise £40,000 in just three weeks.

Jayden was first seen by doctors when his family took him to St John’s Hospital in Livingston after he was sick every morning for weeks. An MRI scan revealed a massive tumor on his brain stem. He was diagnosed with an ependymoma, a rare form of tumor which affects the central nervous system, and underwent a ten-hour operation that left him in a wheelchair.

His family has been working round the clock to collect the cash needed to fund their visit to Florida after doctors insisted the move was their best hope. They were able to raise an astonishing £40,300 to cover the cost of accommodation and food, while the NHS will pick up the bill for the treatment.

Jayden and his family are now in Florida, where he will undergo specialized proton beam treatment five days a week, although doctors have warned there are no guarantees the cancer will not return.


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WEB REVIEW – Proton therapy hospital in Mumbaï, India

Treatment for cancer in women and children is set to take a big leap in about two and a half years in Mumbaï, as the city is getting a world-class hospital, the first of the country to offer proton beam therapy.


HLL Lifecare Ltd. (HLL), a public sector undertaking under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, has teamed up with the Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) for constructing the hospital. The parties signed a memorandum of understanding on Wednesday to appoint HLL’s infrastructure development division as the project management consultant. The hospital is expected to begin operations in early 2017.

The HLL-TMC project will include a proton beam facility, the first of its kind in India and only the 12th in the world, to offer advanced and high-precision cancer therapy. “HLL is proud to be associated with Tata Memorial Centre in constructing India’s first national hadron beam facility and a cancer center for women and children,” said Dr. M. Ayyappan from HLL. “Cancer patients can look forward to the most modern treatment once the hospital is operationalized.”

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