Family comes first for Maria. With parents, two sons and a granddaughter that Maria is very close with, she focuses her energies on keeping her family healthy and happy. That's why she didn't pay much attention to a slight pain she experienced periodically on the left side of her upper back area. If she became uncomfortable, she would reposition herself throughout the day. While over time the pain became more intense and more frequent, Maria continued to ignore it.
That changed one day following an incident at her parents' home. Maria's father had fallen and she went to the house to help her mother lift him off the floor. As Maria was leaving, her father fell again and while she tried to catch him she fell down herself. Landing hard on her knee she felt dizzy, with shooting pain in her upper back.
When seeking treatment for her knee at the hospital, a CT and PET scan revealed a tumor on Maria's spine. While the diagnosis explained the pain Maria had been experiencing in her upper back, she was overwhelmed with fear by what this diagnosis might mean for her future.
After further testing, doctors determined that Maria had a six-centimeter benign schwannoma tumor on her spine, just centimeters away from her heart. Because of its location, the tumor was inoperable.
"My doctor explained that surgery could leave me paralyzed, or that I could experience severe bleeding in the operating room," said Maria. Stunned, Maria carried on through a series of appointments with different specialists seeking alternative treatment options. Then, in what Maria calls her miracle, she was presented with a noninvasive option — the CyberKnife® System at Newport Diagnostic Center.
The doctor explained that the CyberKnife System offered non-invasive treatments, using targeted beams of radiation to destroy tumors. The precision of the CyberKnife treatment would minimize radiation exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. This feature was especially important in Maria's case considering the close proximity of the tumor to her heart. She was also told that if the treatment was successful, she would have a very good chance of avoiding future procedures.
With the CyberKnife System offering more hope for successful treatment, Maria met immediately with Dr. Amanda Schwer, radiation oncologist at Newport Diagnostic Center/Hoag Hospital to review and prepare for her treatment plan. She completed five courses of CyberKnife treatments over a nine-day period.
"I was able to undergo my CyberKnife treatments during my lunch hour and would then head right back to work. I was amazed that I didn't feel a thing," Maria said. "After work I was a little tired and took a nap, but otherwise there were no side effects. It was so convenient, and I felt great throughout the entire process."
Following her CyberKnife treatment, Maria's tumor began to shrink and she has been pain free. Follow-up MRIs have shown that no disease is present, so she is no longer living with a terminal diagnosis.
"My doctors could not believe my progress and kept asking me what I was doing to recover so quickly," Maria noted. "I took my health really seriously after my diagnosis and made sure to take good care of my body, including eating nutritious food and taking supplements."
Today, Maria has a new perspective on life. She wants to help other people who, like her, are given a frightening diagnosis. She plans to volunteer at a hospice and is considering going back to school to become a physical therapist, so that she can help people recover from setbacks.
"I would not be alive without CyberKnife. I firmly believe that it saved my life," Maria concluded. "Not that many people know about their treatment options and I want to help as many people as I can, who find themselves in similar situations."
As of the creation of this patient profile, Maria found her CyberKnife treatment to be successful.