Doug Lawrence and his wife, Mary Ann, weren’t sure they would be together this holiday season. Doug, 71, suffers from terminal brain cancer known as glioblastoma, but he has been relying on a unique medical device to attack his cancer cells.
“I’m still alive,” he said. “I don’t know how else to say that. The thing is, I should have been not here.”
Mary Ann said doctors originally told her husband he would only have 6 to 18 months to live.
It has now been nearly 2 years since Doug was diagnosed.
“We thought maybe he wouldn’t be here for this holiday — but here he is,” she said. “Just knowing that we are all still together — that’s a blessing, too.”
We first met Doug in August of 2013, when he began an experimental treatment at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles. The device, known as the Novocure cap, needs to be worn on the head around-the-clock, and sends painless electronic signals to the brain in order to stop cancer cells from spreading or dividing.
“If the cells aren’t dividing, then the tumor is not growing,” said Dr. Thomas Chen, Doug’s neurosurgeon. “It also has a nice side effect in terms of it prevents these cancer cells from migrating.”
Chen orders an MRI every two months to make sure Doug’s cancer is not spreading.
His scans from earlier this month showed no signs of cancer growth. In fact, since Doug started using the Novocure device, his cancer hasn’t grown at all.
“The ability of the device to prevent what we call ‘progression,’ or spread of the cancer is a very important aspect to the patient’s life,” Chen said.
As part of the study, some of the patients involved in the medical trial only received chemotherapy and did not undergo treatment from the Novocure cap. However, because of the success of the device, the FDA recently required the Novocure cap be made available to all patients participating in the study.
Novocure’s Chief Science Officer, Dr. Eilon Kirson, tells CBS News the device will likely receive FDA approval in 2015 to treat newly diagnosed brain cancer patients, like Doug. The Novocure cap is already available for patients suffering from reoccurring brain cancer — meaning their cancer came back after undergoing surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
Doug said he now tries to make the most of every day, and he and his wife are already looking forward to making family plans for next Christmas.
“I got some grandkids that need to be chased around the house and around the Christmas tree,” said Doug, tearfully. “Our family has always been a good solid family and it’s going to stay here.
Barbara Jacoby is an award winning blogger that has contributed her writings to multiple online publications that have touched readers worldwide.