Meet Tamara Banda. A Pathologists' Assistant, a die hard TCU fan, an avid snowboarder, a lover of craft beer and music, and a dear friend. As many of you know Tamara spent an entire day in late February snowboarding for Hope on the Slopes to raise money for cancer research and awareness. Little did she know, a mere month and a half later, she too would begin her own fight with cancer. Around 4 in the morning on April 15th, Tamara woke up and had lost nearly every word in her vocabulary. She was having difficulty communicating with coworkers and could not even remember her last name. After an Emergency Room visit and multiple scans, we learned that she was having simple partial seizures due to a baseball sized tumor in the part of her brain that controls vison, motor skills, and speech. The tumor was biopsied and approximately 40% of the tumor was surgically removed. Unfortunately, the entire tumor could not be removed due to its location. Her diagnosis: Anaplastic Astrocytoma-Grade III.
If this name strikes fear or worry in your heart, it is for good reason. Anaplastic astrocytomas fall under the rare brain tumor category of high grade gliomas (WHO grade III-IV). The etiology of these tumors is unknown, meaning they usually happen sporadically and without cause. The standard initial treatment is to remove as much of the tumor as possible and then to follow with radiation and chemotherapy.
Tamara bounced back from the surgery with flying colors and was walking, talking, and laughing once again. She was back to work within a few weeks and on May 19th began her radiation and chemotherapy treatments. She was over her first major hurdle.