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Keeping the Faith




Submitted by:
Carmen Sigler

My mom is one of the most courageous, loving, inspirational people I’ve ever met. She battled breast cancer in 1997 and again in 2007. Despite enduring two surgeries, radiation, and chemo therapy she rebounded, determined to enjoy her life and her family.

She had two grand kids in the past 5 years. She and my father come over for our daughters bath/bed time every night. Our son spends Friday nights with them. We enjoy each other so much.

In March 2012 my mom got sick with a cold and developed an ear problem that caused her a lot of discomfort and wouldn’t get better. She saw several ENT’s who couldn’t diagnose the problem. Finally the last doctor suggested that she get an MRI to see if there was something going on in her ear canal. There wasn’t but the MRI did show a small mass in her left frontal lobe. She was “lucky” to find it early before she had any symptoms from the tumor. 3 weeks later in late July 2012 she had a surgical resection at KU to remove the mass. The news was as bad as it gets with brain cancer. Grade IV glioblastoma. She followed surgery with the standard of care, 30 radiation treatment and monthly Temodar.

Early in this process a friend who had lost his mother in an accident told me that I was lucky to know that time was short and that I got to do and say everything I needed. Our whole family dove into making the most of our time togeter. My husband and kids and I moved in with my parents after her initial surgery and stayed until she was well enough to resume her nightly visits to our house. My sister took time off of school and my brother came home from his job as a prosecutor in Illinois most weekends. We all lived in our “compound” together taking care of each other. As mom settled into her monthly chemo and recovered from radiation we took some family vacations, celebrated the holidays and birthdays and all of the things we love to do as a family. In April 2013 my parents celebrated their 43rd anniversary with a 3 week trip to Italy and France.

When they returned from that trip my mom had her routine 8 week scan. It showed “enhancement” around the cavity where her tumor had been removed. I scrambled to find the best option for her treatment. I spoke to all of the main brain tumor centers and looked into every trial she qualified for. Finally we opted to go to UCLA for surgery and a new gene therapy trial (Tocagen) that her oncologist felt was promising. She had her second surgery on May 23, 2013. During surgery they found that the enhancement was actually radiation necrosis and not a new tumor so she didn’t qualify for the trial. It turns out necrosis is a dangerous process as well but we felt good returning to KC with the thought that maybe her chemo was working and she could resume that treatment. Her second surgery was much more difficult. She had supplementary motor area syndrome which left her with a lot of “temporary” problems with speech, thought and movement on her right side. She is a retired physical therapist herself so she has been very diligent about her recovery. My husband and kids and I moved back in with my parents when we returned form LA. Mom doesn’t want to miss any time with her grand kids. She calls them her best medicine.

Unfortunately when she was re-scanned a month after surgery there was a new cluster of tumors or necrosis.

She can’t have any more surgery so she is currently doing Avastin infusions to try to slow the progression and extend her quality of life. We all remain by her side in this difficult, painful, beautiful time. We live in our “compound” soaking up as much togetherness as we can. We plan for the end of her journey while celebrating what we have today by doing the things we love as a family. We go to the zoo, make dinner, play with the kids, go for walks, talk, laugh and cry. Next week we are all going to Colorado for a family trip and then when we get home we will walk as a team with some of her friends and family in Head for the Cure.

My mom, Cris Sigler, is a beautiful spirit. She touches everyone who meets her. We are so lucky to have her. I’m hopeful that there is a cure or at least a better treatment coming soon. Maybe even soon enough for her.

* December 5, 2013 we began to honor the memory of Cris.