Living Life After Glioblastoma Diagnosis
- Israel Lemus, of Houston, Texas, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer—known as glioblastoma multiforme—at the age of 29.
- Despite being told he would only have eight weeks to live, the Texan is celebrating six years after learning he had a golf size-growth on his brain.
- Glioblastoma grows rapidly and is located in the brain, the most protected part of the body. This means that surgery should be performed swiftly and there are few drugs that can even reach the tumor given the impenetrable blood/brain barrier.
Israel Lemus, of Houston, Texas, credits his faith, support system, and doctors for allowing him to recover.Read More
Weeks later, Israel experienced the same strange feeling.
“I looked at my mother. I’m like, Mom, I don’t know what’s happening and she’s looking in my eyes. She was like what are you looking at, but I wasn’t controlling this, and then low and behold, I have a full-blown seizure right in front of them.”
Israel was then rushed to a nearby hospital, where doctors found a golf ball-sized growth on his brain.
He was informed he had glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive type of brain cancer, in the most advanced stage.
“It was the worst day of my life to be honest with you. They told me it was glioblastoma multiforme, and you have eight weeks to live and give me two months,” Israel explained. “Truth be told, I was devastated. I had my faith. I know I’m going to be good, because I do have my faith. I do have my support system, but it still shook me to my core for sure.”
At the time he learned about his diagnosis, Israel was 29 and his then-girlfriend was 21 years old. Despite Israel being told he only had two months left to live, the couple moved in together and began wedding planning.
When Israel was referred to Dr. Jay-Jiguang Zhu, a specialist in the rare type of cancer he was diagnosed with, at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann, he was told the “key thing” in his treatment was to “reverse the course.”
“Number one, come up with a diagnosis, number two is really put together a strategy moving forward, given the challenging situation,” Dr. Zhu said, before Israel underwent various surgeries and clinical trials.
Now, six years after his diagnosis, which was potentially fatal, Dr. Zhu credits Israel’s miraculous recovery has been credited to the care he’s been receiving, along with the support from his family and friends.
Noting how “remarkable” and miraculous Israel’s recovery was, Dr. Zhu admits he is surprised that his patient is still able to work despite undergoing so many treatments.
After three cranial craniotomies, three rounds of triple chemotherapy through IV, five gamma knife radiosurgery procedures, and continuously taking chemotherapy pills, Israel believes he is cancer-free.
His doctors haven’t exactly described him to be in remission, but Isreal seems to be doing well and keeping up with his checkups every two months.
Glioblastoma grows rapidly and is located in the brain, the most protected part of the body. This means that surgery should be performed swiftly and there are few drugs that can even reach the tumor given the impenetrable blood/brain barrier.
What’s more, the cells are heterogeneous, meaning that each one must be individually targeted to slow tumor growth.
Additionally, surgery often can not remove all of the cancer because of the way the tumor burrows into the brain, so the tumor starts to grow again immediately after surgery.
The average survival rate is 15 months with treatment, and less than six if left untreated, according to the National Cancer Institute. And while there is a five-year-survival rate of approximately 6%, those individuals will never be cancer-free and must continue receiving radiation and chemotherapy for the rest of their lives.
How it Grows
The grade refers to how likely the tumor is to grow and spread, with grade 4 being reserved for only the most aggressive tumors.
In the case of glioblastoma, “the tumor’s cells are abnormal, and the tumor creates new blood vessels as it grows,” explains Dr. Weingart. “The tumor may accumulate dead cells in its core.”
And at this time, there is little more that is known about glioblastoma.
“Despite all the advances in treatment, we still don’t understand what causes GBMs,” says Dr. Weingart.
What is known is that glioblastoma is not hereditary, is diagnosed in adults more than children, and is slightly more common in men.
There are studies that have presented evidence which link the tumors to cell phone usage, exposure to radiation, or working in a rubber factory, but little else beyond that is known.