Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (1)

Interview With A Brain Cancer (GBM) Survivor

Cameron J. Mitchell was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme (or GBM, an aggressive form of brain cancer) over four years ago. The prognosis for this tumor is usually grim, as most people succumb to it within 4 to 18 months of diagnosis. However, Cameron got involved in a clinical trial for a promising new therapy and has beaten the odds. Since Revolution Health was founded partly in response to Dan Case’s battle with a GBM (and I had the opportunity to participate in the Race for Hope to benefit Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure last weekend), I thought it would be great to highlight Cameron’s story. Cameron also happens to be a close friend of one of our staff at Revolution Health.

Dr. Val:  Tell me about how you were diagnosed with a brain tumor. What symptoms did you have? What led up to the diagnosis?

First of all as you can imagine getting the news is like being hit by a truck. You think, “this just can’t be happening to me.” And of course the “why me?” scenario comes into play.

My initial diagnosis came after having a bout of seizures, both grand mal and partial. After a series of tests and procedures they determined that the ongoing problem was the result of a brain tumor. The typical protocol requires 6 weeks of radiation along with oral chemotherapy followed up with a visit to your oncologist to determine a plan of action.

Dr. Val: How did you find out about the Duke clinical trial?

Being that the “plan of action” did not have a very favorable outlook I asked my oncologist, “What would you do in this case?” He suggested I contact the Duke Brain Tumor Center. He actually made the initial call. Later that night I received a call from Dr. Henry Friedman saying that they could help. By the end of the week I received a call from Dr. John Sampson telling me that he was working on a specific clinical trial. As long as I could meet some prerequisites I would be eligible to participate. A lot of thought and pondering goes into that decision: “Is it the right one?” “What if it does not work?” But at that point nothing else had been proven, so my wife and I decided that I have nothing to lose to give it a chance.

Dr. Val: What have the treatments been like for you? Do you have any advice for other patients with GBM?

The treatments are an ongoing, once a month procedure, and I travel from Michigan to North Carolina for them. So it definitely is a huge sacrifice but at for very worthy cause. Having MRIs every two months can create a lot of anxiety not knowing if the tumor is back or not.

The four main pieces of advice I could give to new GBM patients are: 1) Get as much as information as you can. Ask lots of questions. 2) Keep a positive attitude (SO IMPORTANT). 3) Keep a strong group of supporters like family, friends and especially spouse. 4) Remember that this is NOT your fault.

There are a lot of very good sites out there on the internet for advice. But one thing to keep in mind, some of them are a little outdated. The better sites allow you to ask questions.

Dr. Val: What advice do you have for family members and loved ones of those diagnosed with a GBM?

Family members must be informed about what is going on. Under absolutely no circumstances should they be left out in the cold. Most patients find out early that their spouse has at least as much (if not more) difficulty dealing with this disease as the patient.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

You may also like these posts

Read comments »

One Response to “Interview With A Brain Cancer (GBM) Survivor”

  1. flojo21 says:

    my mother was diagnosed april of 06 with GBM IV the tumor is back and growing rapidly. They want to do Chemo Avastin/ CPT-11 and i wanted to know what treatment you are on? They want her to start on Monday and we are just not sure we want to put her through that.  Right now she is weak, difficulty walking, and incoherent.  She is not in any pain and the doctor said we could stop after the 1st treatment if she becomes sick– naussea, diareah, and or bleeding.  Please advise

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »