Beating Brain Tumors

Published in Promise & Progress - Fall 2020/2021

When Jeanie, a housepainter, began having trouble pouring paints without spilling them, the active 65-year-old chalked the coordination problem up to age. Still, she couldn’t understand why she had no problem riding the waves on her boogie board but struggled to paint in a straight line or back her car out of a driveway. Worried Jeanie may have had a stroke, her sister encouraged her to see a doctor, and the news was shocking. The cause of her symptoms was three tumors in her brain that had spread there from an advanced endometrial cancer Jeanie never knew she had.

Jeanie knew her diagnosis was unusual and dire, so the Kent Narrows, Maryland, resident opted to go to the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. There she underwent a hysterectomy to treat the endometrial cancer. Radiation oncologist and brain tumor expert Lawrence Kleinberg and neurosurgeon Chetan Bettegowda treated the spreading cancer in her brain. When friends asked Jeanie if she planned to get a second opinion, she responded, “After you’ve gotten your first opinion at Johns Hopkins, you don’t need a second opinion,” noting that she had a team of more than a dozen experts collaborating on her care.

JeanieJeanie (right) and partner Jenny

Kleinberg offered optimism when most saw her advancing cancer as hopeless. “My friends thought I was a goner, but Dr. Kleinberg always believed I had a chance, and that meant so much to me,” says Jeanie.

Despite what seemed a bleak diagnosis, four year’s later Jeanie’s cancer is now undetectable. “I’m a bit of a miracle,” says Jeanie, who just celebrated her 69th birthday. After the combination of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and surgery used to treat the advanced cancer, she went through physical therapy for balance and coordination issues caused by the brain tumors but says, “My treatment at Johns Hopkins was a breeze.”

Today, Jeanie is back to work and playing drums with her band the Surf Jaguars.

Brain Tumors

A discussion with brain tumor expert and radiation oncology Lawrence Kleinberg.

Illustration of a proton beam on the brain.