TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) According to Cancer.net, an estimated 16,700 adults will die from primary cancerous brain and CNS tumors this year alone.
May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month. Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has made a proclamation stating May 8, 2017 is Ependymoma Awareness Day for Kansas, to honor one courageous young lady.
At just 24 years old, Allie Montgomery had her whole life in front of her. Her goals centered on being a newlywed and building her career. The last thing she ever thought she would here is, “you have a brain tumor.”
“It almost didn’t feel real. No one thinks this can happen to me. I’m 24-25 years old,” said Allie.
In the fall of 2016, Allie started experiencing problems with her vision. After getting an MRI and CAT scan, she learned that she had a brain tumor, which would later be diagnosed as an aggressive, grade three, anaplastic ependymoma tumor.
Retired Topeka Neurosurgeon, Dr.John Ebeling said her tumor is called an Ependymoma, which rises from the cells that rise from the spinal fluid cells of the brain.
“I remember being in quite denial that it was as aggressive as it was. I refused to use the word malignant. But truly that’s what it is and that was tough,” said Allie.
According to the CERN Foundation, multiple studies suggest the 5 year survival rate for adult ependymoma is over 65%, although the prognosis is worse for patients with grade III tumors.
But Allie wasn’t going down without a fight.
“The treatment of choice is of course surgery and most often followed by radiation treatment. It think by looking at her pre-operative scans it was a very doable surgery. I had no qualms that she would make it through surgery with an experienced neurosurgeon,” explains Dr. Ebeling.
Allie had surgery at KU Medical Center on October 28, 2016, to remove the tumor. Even though the surgeon was able to completely remove the tumor, the hard part of the recovery process was just beginning.
“Because this is as aggressive as it is you need to have radiation so it doesn’t come back and there’s no microscopic cells that can make it come back. The chance of this coming back is not tiny. It’s not a tiny chance. And so doing radiation was our best chance of that not happening again. Its 30 treatments over 6 weeks and that encompassed Christmas and New Year, “ said Allie.
It’s now 7 months later, and Allie’s recovery couldn’t be better.
“I went in and had my first evaluation – my first treatment in March and things looked really good but I was supposed to be set up on a 3 month follow up routine for a while – at least a year. And everything looked so good and they were so confident at that appointment that they said let’s go to 6 months. Daily life is even better than it was before. But mentally you decide what’s important and where you want to go in life and how quickly you want to do it,” says Allie.
Allie turned 25 in March. Even though she will have continuous check ups for the rest of her life, she feels she’s been given a miracle that she won’t take for granted.
“That’s what I would tell people. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Even if you feel it’s not going to go your way – you never know. Miracles happen,” said Allie.
A key message Allie has for everyone is, knowledge is power. She hopes Ependymoma Awareness Day on May 8th, will help everyone become more informed. So like Allie, when the unthinkable happens, your awareness can help you fight back.