“I woke up and couldn’t breathe, I felt like I was suffocating,” says Mrs. Helene Rich, pictured with her daughter. “I sat up, slammed my fists into my chest and pounded it until I started breathing again.” Mrs. Rich had suffered from pneumonia 3 years prior and thought the pneumonia was back.
Upon being admitted to the hospital, many tests were performed to determine why she had this frightening breathing attack and the results showed that there were cancer cells in her lungs. The cancer cells were interfering with the normal functioning of her lungs and she wasn’t getting the necessary oxygen she needed to breathe. “I was feeling a lot of pressure in my chest and they had to remove 1 liter of fluid from my lungs. After that I felt much better,” she said.
Her Oncologist recommended chemotherapy as the best treatment option for the cancer cells in her lungs. She would require chemo treatments for 3 months and chose to live at a rehab center near her Oncologist because she lived far from the hospital. “I stayed at the rehabilitation center for 114 days until the chemo was finished. Living alone, it was better for me to be at a place where I could receive help in case I felt sick from the treatment. I have 2 daughters but I didn’t want to stay with them and be a burden to anyone,” said Mrs. Rich.
After the chemo treatments were completed, a PET scan was taken to determine if the cancer cells in her lungs were gone and to check the rest of her body for any additional evidence of cancer. “I was told that the cancer cells in my lungs were gone but the scan did show that there were spots on my ovaries and I would need additional treatment”, she said.
“The thought of more treatment was scary but I try to put a smile on my face, be as brave as possible and keep on going”.
The cancer cells in her lungs turned out to be ovarian cancer cells and since the cancer was also found in her ovaries and the surrounding tissue, Mrs. Rich was diagnosed with Metastatic Ovarian Cancer. This means that her ovarian cancer cells spread to her lungs before she was diagnosed.
“Back to the Oncologist I went to talk about what would come next”, she said. The Oncologist recommended a radical hysterectomy, surgical removal of the ovaries, or she could have standard radiation treatments which can take several months to complete. “I’m not having surgery, said Mrs. Rich, nor do I want to go through radiation treatments. At my age, undergoing surgery will not have a positive outcome and I will not put myself through that”.
While in search of an alternative treatment, a friend of Mrs. Rich happened to work for a doctor who sends his cancer patients to the CyberKnife Center of Miami where they use a non-invasive, painless treatment called CyberKnife Radiosurgery and suggested she consult with them.
CyberKnife Radiosurgery is FDA approved and is a non-invasive, painless procedure that uses very precise radiation to shrink or dissolve tumors with pinpoint accuracy and can be a great alternative to surgery. It safely delivers radiation directly into the tumor sparing healthy surrounding tissue. CyberKnife can also treat many lesions that would be considered inoperable or untreatable giving many patients new hope when there was none.
Mrs. Rich consulted with Mark Pomper, MD, a Board-Certified, Radiation Oncologist and Medical Director at CyberKnife Center of Miami. “Mrs. Rich came to me with a diagnosis of metastatic ovarian cancer that was currently located in the pelvic area. CyberKnife can be a very effective treatment for this type of cancer because it actively spreads and with CyberKnife if the lesions return, we can zap them again no matter where they are located in the body”, said Dr. Pomper. Mrs. Rich is strong and basically in good health and she should tolerate this procedure well.
“I had five CyberKnife treatments over ten days and didn’t feel anything,” said Mrs. Rich. “I wasn’t nervous, I laid on the table, listened to music and relaxed during my 45 minute treatment. After my treatments I was able to go out for lunch with my friend, walk the mall or do anything I wanted to do. It is amazing! I felt fine in fact, I never even experienced any fatigue”.
After Mrs. Rich completed her five CyberKnife treatments, she went for a second PET scan to determine if the area of the original cancer was gone or had shrunk. The results showed that the lesions shrunk and were much smaller. “Often after we irradiate tumors with CyberKnife they shrink and over time they are completely gone”, says Dr. Pomper. It is our hope that the tumor in Mrs. Rich’s pelvis will dissolve completely.
The new PET scan also showed that the cancer had spread to the abdominal wall which is a frequent area of return for ovarian cancer, says Dr. Pomper, but we can treat them and we are hopeful that they will dissolve.
Recently, Mrs. Rich began another round of CyberKnife treatments to address the abdominal wall tumor. She will again have five treatments and is expected to do very well. Dr. Pomper explains that metastatic ovarian cancer is an incurable cancer but because CyberKnife technology is so precise, safe and effective, it enables us to treat the tumors if, or when, they recur giving our patients an extended and very good quality of life.
Mrs. Rich is doing very well. She is living her life to the fullest, has a wonderful spirit and such a positive attitude. She enjoys spending time with her 3 children and her grandchildren and loves going to Festival Flee Market with “The Girls”. She speaks highly of Dr. Pomper raving about how wonderful he is. She says, “He is very caring, thorough, and makes me feel so comfortable”. The staff at CyberKnife is also terrific. Everyone is so attentive and friendly; they take wonderful care of me.
When I first met Dr. Pomper he asked me how I felt when I was told that I should have surgery to remove my ovaries and I told him I was opposed to it. I was feeling good and I didn’t want to put myself through invasive surgery. I knew I would be in pain from the surgery and that recovery could be difficult. Dr. Pomper told me all about the benefits of CyberKnife, painless, no cutting, no anesthesia, no hospital stay and how CyberKnife Therapy can do the same thing as surgery, get rid of the tumors. This sounded so much easier than the other difficult treatment options that were offered to me. Another doctor even told me that CyberKnife would never work for me and that surgery was my only option, but why would I chose surgery when CyberKnife can non-invasively get rid of my tumors?
“I’m enjoying my life, I’m not in pain, I have a good appetite, and I know that when, or if, my tumors come back they can be treated. I know that I made the right decision by refusing the surgery”, said Mrs. Rich.
“I tell everyone about CyberKnife. I tell them how important it is to know that you have choices when it comes to cancer treatments. I tell them not to decide what to do until having a consultation with the doctors at CyberKnife Miami because in my opinion, if you are a candidate, CyberKnife is better than anything!”
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Metastatic Ovarian Cancer or have failed other types of cancer treatments, contact our office for a consultation with our board-certified Radiation Oncologists. Call us today at 305-279-2900