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Posts made in September, 2012

‘I Savor Every Moment’

When John Franco developed a splitting headache three years ago, he never imagined this would be the start of a year-long odyssey. At his wife Elizabeth’s urging, he went to see his doctor, William E. Straw, M.D., who sent him to PAMF’s Palo Alto Center for a CT scan.

“I am so grateful that Dr. Straw recommended a CT scan, even though everything seemed fine with me neurologically,” says Franco. “If it wasn’t for his diligence and instinct to take this step, I may not be alive today.”

The CT scan revealed the frightening reason why Franco had been having headaches.

“I met with neurosurgeon Paul Jackson, M.D., after hours,” says Franco. “He told me that I had a tumor the size of a tennis ball in the right frontal lobe of my brain. I was overwhelmed with fear….fear of dying, fear of the unknown, and fear of the uncertain future for my wife and kids living without their husband and dad.”

The very next day Franco had surgery to remove what, at that time, seemed like a benign tumor. However, when the tumor grew back, a biopsy showed it was a glioblastoma, the most common – and most malignant – brain tumor.

Additional surgery followed, and Dr. Jackson was able to remove 99 percent of the tumor. At that point, Franco was referred to a clinical trial of a new treatment regimen: three types of chemotherapy for a year, preceded by six weeks of daily radiation, under the care of PAMF radiation oncology specialist Gordon Ray, M.D. After a year, he had the option of continuing chemotherapy, or trying alternative therapies.

Franco chose complimentary alternative therapies recommended by PAMF social worker Colleen Travers. Since May 2010, John has kept up a thorough and varied regimen: healing touch massage therapy, nutrition counseling, meditation and herbal medicine.

“We wanted to see if my body could resist a tumor ‘comeback,’” said Franco. “Colleen Travers has offered incredible support, guidance and wisdom in every aspect of this journey.”

Two years after finishing treatment, the tumor hasn’t returned. Franco still has cancer and regular checkups. So far, the checkups have been very positive.

“This type of cancer never goes into remission and never goes away,” says Franco. “The doctors say the best scenario is that you come in for a checkup every few months for the rest of your life to make sure tumor hasn’t come back.”

During his treatment, John got laid off from his job as a land acquisition development manager at a local real estate development company and went on disability. Currently, he’s enjoying being “Mr. Mom,” taking care of his two daughters, Madison, 8, and Samantha, 7. He is also enjoying what he describes as the acute sensitivity he brings to his life. One of the positive parts of a difficult journey came from having to ask friends and family for help, which John says opened his heart and his life, rekindling relationships that had been dormant for years.

John Franco“I don’t take anything for granted and find happiness in the little things in life that present themselves on a daily basis,” says Franco. “I love my wife and kids as if today is the last day I will be with them. I can’t change the past or control the future, so I enjoy the now, the present moment, savoring every moment of now that I am able to enjoy.”

John’s positive attitude and strength have been inspirational for all the PAMF staff members who have treated him, according to Dr. Gordon Ray.

“It has been a pleasure and an honor to treat John,” said Dr.  Ray. “His ability to complete a rigorous course of treatment, including both aggressive radiation and chemotherapy, is a model for all of us on how to deal with adversity in life. I look forward to continuing to care for him and observing his continued progress for many years to come.”

‘Each Child Is Unique’ – Glara Kang, M.D.

“I always wanted to be a pediatrician because I really love kids. I love working with them and seeing them grow up,” says Glara J. Kang, M.D., a pediatrician at PAMF’s Fremont Center.

Building relationships with her young patients and their families is what she finds most rewarding. “Each child is unique and I thoroughly enjoy working with the whole family to provide care that best suits everyone,” says Dr. Kang.

Find out more about her in this video that is part of a series highlighting the diverse voices of PAMF physicians.

‘Determined to Succeed’ – Weight Loss Surgery Leads to New Life

Geri Kaialoa lost 100 pounds through weight loss surgery and discovering a love of running.

Three years ago Geri Kaialoa never would have thought of putting on a pair of running shoes. But at 252 pounds she knew she had to do something to change her life.

Kaialoa, now a vibrant 47-year-young mother and grandmother, had started piling on the weight 12 years ago, when her mom became very sick. The stress and worry over her mom’s health had driven Kaialoa to eating – far too much. Over the years she’d tried every possible diet and exercise regime without success. The excess weight was also taking its toll on her health. Read More

I’m On Your Time – Daniel B. Marcus, M.D.

People come to see Daniel B. Marcus, M.D., a PAMF physical medicine and rehabilitation physician in Santa Cruz, with severe problems for which they are seeking solutions. “The fact that they trust me to help them find an answer carries with it a great responsibility,” he says. “I find that to be very gratifying.”

The answers he helps people find are dependent upon who they are, he stresses. “When people come to see me, I’m on their time. We put our heads together and find the way that fits who they are and what they want out of life.” His patients are often relieved to find out they can treat their neck or back pain with minimal intervention, or that the right surgery at the right time can bring the result they desire. “I focus on the person, and not just the diagnosis,” he says in this video, which is part of a series highlighting the diverse voices of PAMF physicians.

A Perfect Role Model – One Family, Two Heart Surgeries

When Dick Henry found out that he needed open heart surgery, he was not afraid. His sole focus was on setting the best possible example and recovering quickly for a very special young person in his life – his 11-year-old granddaughter, Ella.

Dick Henry and his granddaughter, Ella, are enjoying life again just one year after their heart surgeries.

Read More