LITTLE ROCK — Christmas 2013 was like no other for Julie Papini Session of Morrilton.
Having experienced symptoms including forgetfulness, nausea and severe headaches for several weeks, Session took the advice of a friend and saw her doctor Dec. 23. She received a call the following day — Christmas Eve — that “a little something” had been detected behind her right eye and that she should return for a second appointment in two days.
“My doctor was also my next door neighbor. He was trying to protect us so we could enjoy the holiday,” she said.
The “little something” turned out to be a 7.5 cm tumor. After a successful surgery on Dec. 27, it was confirmed to be glioblastoma multiforme grade 4 (GBM), an aggressive brain cancer that can quickly spread to other parts of the brain.
“It was a surreal experience. I was supposed to be enjoying Christmas with my family and suddenly I was having brain surgery,” said Session, the mother of four children ages 6 to 16.
Jump ahead to 2017, and Session is now on a mission to raise awareness and funds in the fight against brain cancer. The first-ever Go Gray in May 5K, organized entirely by Session and her family, was held May 20 in Morrilton and drew more than 200 participants. The race was presented by Going Gray for Julie, a nonprofit organization formed by the family.
On Aug. 1, a donation of $15,000 in proceeds from that event was presented to the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute for brain cancer research.
Accepting the donation were radiation oncologists Fen Xia, M.D., Ph.D., and Jose Penagaricano, M.D., both professors in the Department of Radiation Oncology in the UAMS College of Medicine. Xia also is chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology.
“I can’t say enough about the dedication that Julie and her family have shown in rallying their community to raise funds for brain cancer research. Their spirit is sure to inspire many more people to get involved and help us improve our ability to prevent, diagnose and treat brain tumors in the future,” Xia said.
Session is thankful for the support of her community in sponsoring and participating in the first-ever Go Gray in May 5K, which is named in reference to the gray brain cancer ribbon. The second annual race is planned for May 19, 2018.
“There is no cure for GBM, but it is treatable. Until there is a cure, I will always be fighting GBM and supporting research,” Session said.
For information on the 5K, visit the Going Gray for Julie Facebook page or email email@example.com.
Aug. 7, 2017 | It was a normal day visiting her family in Little Rock when Melinda Godsey started to feel sick. “I thought I had a stomach virus,” she said. Not wanting to infect her grandchildren, she got up the next morning and started the drive back to her home in El Dorado.
Feeling weaker and weaker as the two-hour trip progressed, Godsey, an interior designer and artist, recalls the frightening moment when she passed out behind the wheel. “It was quick. I just faded in and out. Thankfully I didn’t cross any lanes of traffic,” she said.
Her weakness continued to progress over the next three days, getting to the point where she could not shower or speak. After being admitted to the hospital, doctors found what looked to be the cause of her weakness: Severe bleeding ulcers in her stomach had resulted in a significant loss of blood.
However, that was not the end of their findings. Tests also revealed that the ulcers were merely a symptom of a much larger problem that had likely been growing for months. Godsey was told that she was living with linitis plastica, a rare stomach cancer that spreads to the muscles of the stomach wall, causing it to harden and become rigid. While this aggressive cancer starts in the stomach, it quickly spreads to other organs, making treatment options limited and complex.
While this diagnosis was about to change Godsey’s life, she did not yet know the impact it would have on her loved ones as well.
Representing from 5 percent to 10 percent of all gastric cancers, a slight increase in cases of linitis plastic has been observed over the past few years. This may be attributed to improved diagnostic tools, said Luidmila Schafer, M.D., a medical oncologist and assistant professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine.
“Our knowledge and ability to diagnose rare cancers has improved significantly in recent years, so conditions such as linitis plastica may not have been diagnosed with such precision in the past,” she said.
Godsey was referred by her physician in El Dorado to a cancer center out of state, where she immediately went for evaluation. After confirming her diagnosis, she was given the news that the cancer had already spread to her abdomen and the preferred surgical treatment was no longer an option. However, she was a candidate for aggressive chemotherapy.
Because her out-of-state physician received his fellowship training in the UAMS Hematology/Oncology Fellowship program, he was aware of the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute and its comprehensive treatment programs. He told Godsey that she could return to Arkansas and receive chemo at the Cancer Institute close to home.
Referrals were made and Godsey arrived for her first appointment at UAMS in June, about one month after her diagnosis. Unfortunately, good news did not await her. Godsey had developed sepsis as the result of an infection, resulting in a week-long hospitalization and postponement of the start of chemotherapy.
“It was a tough start,” said Godsey’s daughter, Courtney Cassinelli, adding that after the infection cleared, her mom was able to begin two types of chemo given simultaneously under Schafer’s supervision.
While the treatment has been tough, Godsey is thankful for her good days and the time she’s been given.
“I could have lived for only a short time, but I’ve made it two years thanks to Dr. Schafer’s care. What she has done for me has been remarkable,” she said.
A Family Connection
At about the same time Godsey was coming to terms with her diagnosis of stage 4 stomach cancer in 2015, her first cousin, Anita Meek, was getting the news that she had been diagnosed with lobular breast cancer. This form of breast cancer makes up only about 10 percent of invasive breast cancers and typically doesn’t form a lump, making it less likely to be detected on a mammogram.
Having lost a young son to cancer, Meek, who lives in Harrison, decided to undergo genetic testing to see if there might be an inherited genetic component to their conditions. Schafer also had recommended that Godsey undergo genetic testing at the UAMS Cancer Genetics Clinic, due to the rarity of her cancer and the known link between linitis plastica and the CDH1 gene mutation.
“As the only cancer genetics clinic in Arkansas, we see people with rare cancers, early-onset cancers or unusual presentations of cancer from across the state and region,” said Kent McKelvey, M.D., director of Cancer and Adult Genetic Services and associate professor of family medicine and genetics in the UAMS College of Medicine.
UAMS has the only board-certified geneticists who diagnose, manage and treat complex cancer syndromes, of which there are more than 50. Cancer genetics counselors work with the geneticist and are a vital part of the team to help families understand their genome and its implications in cancer prevention.
Although any doctor can order genetic testing — which is conducted using a blood or saliva sample — the process can be daunting. Abnormal results must be put into context for a specific patient and family in this rapidly changing field and no two cases are the same.
When both Godsey and Meek were found to have the CDH1 gene mutation it only took minutes for McKelvey to conclude it was passed to them by their fathers, who were brothers.
“A person doesn’t inherit cancer from their parents. However, they can inherit the predisposition to cancer. That’s what happened in this family. The CDH1 gene mutation that Mrs. Godsey and Mrs. Meek have increases their risk of developing linitis plastica by about 80 percent and lobular breast cancer by about 40 percent,” McKelvey said.
There also is, to a lesser extent, an increased risk of colon cancer associated with CDH1.
Armed with this information, Meek underwent a double mastectomy at a hospital near her Northwest Arkansas home and continues to be followed twice yearly at Highlands Oncology Group (HOG). The UAMS Cancer Institute and HOG formed a partnership in 2013 that provides expanded access to clinical trials and advanced treatment options to residents of Northwest Arkansas.
Because Godsey and Meek now knew they carried the CDH1 mutation, they also knew their adult children could choose to undergo genetic testing to determine if they had inherited it as well. When someone carries a gene mutation, they have a 50-50 chance of passing that mutation along to each of their children.
“My sister and I were both tested at UAMS. My test came back negative, but hers was positive,” said Cassinelli. Because Cassinelli does not carry the gene mutation, there is no need to test her children. Once the line is broken, it does not reappear in subsequent generations.
As for Kelly Cameron, Godsey’s eldest daughter, the positive result set in motion a series of completely unexpected and life-changing decisions.
Because there is no screening method for stomach cancer, it is often found in its late stages after it has already spread to other organs, which was the case with Godsey. The only way to prevent a person with the CDH1 gene mutation from developing stomach cancer is to undergo a procedure called total gastrectomy, which involves removing the stomach and extending the small intestine up to meet the esophagus. With time, the small intestine makes a small pouch mimicking the stomach.
Because food now passes directly into the small intestine when it is consumed, side effects such as bloating, nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea following total gastrectomy are common in the first few months.
“Although it is possible to adjust to the new diet and small meals required following total gastrectomy, the surgery also has an impact on a person’s physical, social and emotional health,” Schafer said.
Due to her young age and the high likelihood that she would develop this rare cancer in her lifetime, the 41-year-old Cameron decided that, regardless of the side effects, total gastrectomy was her best option.
While it has been a challenging transition since her surgery in February 2016, each month become a little bit easier for Cameron. “The first year is traumatic to your body. Your stomach is a major player and suddenly it’s gone. You can’t fully understand what that’s like unless you experience it yourself,” she said.
Ultimately, however, the body adapts to its new situation and the symptoms subside. “It’s a new normal,” Cameron said, adding that she has essentially relearned how and what to eat, in addition to taking vitamin supplements that ensure she meets her daily nutritional needs.
Although Meek also is at risk of developing linitis plastica, she elected to forego total gastrectomy for now. “If I were younger, I may have chosen that path as well. Instead, I’m seeing my doctor regularly and hoping that any signs of cancer will be found early,” she said.
While still adjusting to her total gastrectomy, Cameron also chose in December 2016 to undergo a bilateral prophylactic mastectomy by having both breasts removed before there was any evidence of cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, this surgery will reduce her risk of developing breast cancer by at least 95 percent. The surgery was performed in December 2016 by V. Suzanne Klimberg, M.D., who was then director of the UAMS Breast Cancer Program.
She will soon finish the breast reconstruction process led by plastic surgeon Eric Wright, M.D., associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Cameron is thankful the surgical options were presented to her by McKelvey after completing her genetic test.
“He was a straight shooter. He told me exactly what I needed to do if I wanted to eliminate the chance of developing these cancers,” she said.
She also is thankful to have gone ahead with the surgeries at a young age, as the total gastrectomy revealed stage 1 cancer already formed in the lining of her stomach, as well as precancerous cells in one breast.
“If not for that genetic test and Dr. McKelvey’s guidance, I would have had a much earlier onset of disease than my mom did. Knowing my genetic makeup saved my life,” she said.
Now that her surgeries are complete, next on Cameron’s list is yearly colonoscopies at UAMS to screen for early signs of colon cancer. “Thankfully there is a successful screening method for colon cancer, so no preventative surgery is needed there,” she said.
Then, after her son turns 18, he will have the opportunity to undergo genetic testing at UAMS for the CDH1 gene mutation and make his own decisions based on those findings. Some of Godsey’s siblings and other relatives also have agreed to undergo testing to see if they carry the gene and may have passed it to their children.
In addition to providing individuals with knowledge about their personal health risks, genetic tests also assist researchers in better understanding cancer syndromes in the future.
“Our ability to diagnose and understand cancer and other genetic syndromes is changing on a weekly basis. Because of this, we need the ability to bank and store individual genomes and tumor samples that can be compared and analyzed for a better understanding of how these syndromes work. As more samples are documented, our knowledge will continue to grow,” said McKelvey.
Godsey and Cameron agree they found the right place to address their complex medical needs.
“The Cancer Institute at UAMS has been wonderful. They’ve treated me not only like a patient, but more like a friend. Members of the staff have even called to check on me at home. I would never go anywhere but UAMS,” Cameron said.
A portion of the net proceeds for the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute’s 2017 Gala for Life will benefit the UAMS Cancer Genetics Program. To learn more, visit TheGalaforLife.com.
Aug. 4, 2017 | Patients of the UAMS Myeloma Institute will soon be wrapped in additional care and comfort, thanks to the Subaru Loves to Care initiative launched last year by the vehicle manufacturer in partnership with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
As part of the nationwide initiative, employees from the Subaru of Little Rock dealership and the Arkansas division of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society arrived for a noon visit July 26 bearing boxes filled with nearly 100 blankets to share with patients receiving treatment in the Myeloma Institute’s fourth-floor infusion clinic.
“This is a really important gift for us and we thank you all very much,” Gareth Morgan, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Myeloma Institute, told those assembled for the presentation, including several patients and their families.
“With temperatures reaching nearly 100 degrees outside right now, I guess some may wonder why these patients are getting these blankets now,” Morgan said. “But if you’ve been in a hospital for any amount of time, you understand that it can get very cold in here,” he added with a chuckle.
Delivering the blankets to UAMS were Leigh Ann Brannon of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Subaru of Little Rock’s Lucas Darius, Charles Clark and Cecil Turner, manager of marketing and sales. Turner said his own life had been touched by a loved one diagnosed with cancer.
More than 38,000 blankets will be delivered across the country to patients in their communities fighting cancer.
Some of the patients like Bennie Utley, of Cabot, have been battling the illness for years.
“I was diagnosed in 2005,” Utley said. “My urologist referred me here for another disease and my quality of life is really good. I am happy to have this place so close to us.”
Donald Robertson and his wife, Yolanda, began traveling from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Little Rock for his treatment after he was diagnosed three years ago.
“We wanted to come to the top place for stem-cell transplant,” said Yolanda.
This summer, visitors to 475 Subaru retailers nationwide were given the chance to share personalized messages of hope to patients in their local communities. Those participating also received a bracelet to help spread awareness of leukemia and lymphoma and the automaker’s goal to extend care and hope.
After distributing the blankets, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which exists to find cures and ensure access to treatment for blood cancer patients, including those with myeloma, will feature online inspiring stories and photos of survivors and patients from across the nation.
The UAMS Myeloma Institute is the world’s foremost research and treatment center for multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood’s plasma cells. Visit myeloma.uams.edu. Find us on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.
July 24, 2017 | There’s a new Champion for Children in Arkansas. Nationally renowned pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Brian Reemtsen, MD, of Mattel Children’s Hospital and the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, has been named director of the Heart Institute at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. He will also serve as professor of surgery in the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences’ (UAMS) College of Medicine’s Department of Surgery.
The announcement is the culmination of an extensive national search.
“We searched for an exceptional leader to join us as we champion children by making them better today and healthier tomorrow,” said Marcy Doderer, FACHE, president and CEO of Arkansas Children’s. “Dr. Reemtsen is a patient-focused, data-driven heart surgeon and researcher. As the leader of the Heart Institute, he will ensure world-class care for all of the cardiovascular patients at Arkansas Children’s, from those with the tiniest hearts to our adult congenital heart disease patients.”
“Dr. Reemtsen is an outstanding pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon who we are thrilled to have join our Department of Surgery at UAMS,” said Pope L. Moseley, M.D., executive vice chancellor at UAMS and College of Medicine dean. “Providing the best and most compassionate care for children with heart problems has been a long-standing priority for UAMS.”
In his newly created leadership position, Reemtsen says the Heart Institute will focus on three goals for pediatric heart care at Arkansas Children’s and UAMS:
- Improving outcomes among the smallest, most high-risk children
- Focusing on the fastest-growing patient population of adult congenital heart disease; and
- Strengthening the world-class transplant program at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.
“I feel very honored and overwhelmingly excited about the opportunity to not only lead this great institution, but to have a significant impact on its growth and national presence,” Reemtsen said. “My top priorities are the patients and their families and collaborating with their referring physicians.”
Most recently, Reemtsen served as associate professor of surgery and pediatrics and chief of congenital heart surgery and pediatric heart transplant for Mattel Children’s Hospital and David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center. While there, he gained national attention for performing a heart transplant for the youngest recipient at UCLA in 25 years: a 3-week-old who received a new heart the size of a strawberry.
Reemtsen earned his medical degree from New York Medical College. He completed his internship and residency at the UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, and also served as chief resident at UCLA. He trained as a fellow in cardiac surgery at the University of Washington. He completed a 12-month Fellow Congenital Heart Surgery Program in 2004 at the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Great Ormond Street Hospital in London, England. Reemtsen is board certified by the American Board of Surgery, American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and Congenital Heart Subspecialty. He is a member of the American Medical Association, Western Thoracic Surgical Association, Longmire Surgical Society (president), and is a candidate member of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Under Reemtsen’s guidance the Heart Institute at Arkansas Children’s will become the focal point of the hospital’s David M. Clark Heart Center. To be designated as an institute, a pediatric cardiovascular program must integrate innovative research, like discoveries in clinical trials through Arkansas Children’s Research Institute, as well as robust philanthropic support from the community. Reemtsen will also hold the Log-a-Load for Kids of Arkansas Endowed Chair for Pediatric Cardiovascular Surgery at Arkansas Children’s, a position that has been key in attracting excellent talent to care for Arkansas kids with the most complex hearts.
Arkansas Children’s David M. Clark Heart Center is the leading provider of comprehensive cardiovascular care for infants, children, adolescents and young adults in Arkansas. Last year children and young adults with heart disease made more than 8,000 visits to its clinics and outpatient services.
U.S. News and World Report’s 2017-18 Best Children’s Hospitals ranked Arkansas Children’s 37th for its Pediatric Cardiology and Heart Surgery, and rated its heart transplant, congenital heart and adult congenital heart programs among the program’s excellent ratings.
The David M. Clark Heart Center at Arkansas Children’s Hospital is a full-service pediatric heart institute, which offers:
- Comprehensive pediatric and congenital heart surgery;
- Dedicated cardiac anesthesia service;
- A Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit with stepdown, caring for all medical needs, including pre-op and post-op care of heart patients.
- A heart transplantation program, which has performed more than 340 of these life-saving surgeries.
- Two state-of-the-art cardiac catheterization laboratories and an electrophysiology lab.
- Ventricular assist technology and mobile ECMO (Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation), a form of heart-lung bypass used in critical cases;
- Diagnosis and treatment of patients with connective tissue diseases;
- A Fetal Heart Center to provide the full spectrum of care for babies suspected of having and diagnosed with heart defects – from development of a birth plan with the family to transitional care during the infant’s first year of life; and
- Adult congenital heart disease care.
ABOUT ARKANSAS CHILDREN’S
Arkansas Children’s, Inc. is the only health system in the state solely dedicated to caring for children, which allows the organization to uniquely shape the landscape of pediatric care in Arkansas. The system includes a 359-bed hospital in Little Rock with the state’s only pediatric Level 1 trauma center, burn center, Level 4 neonatal intensive care and pediatric intensive care, and research institute as well as a nationally recognized transport service. It is one of the 25 largest children’s hospitals in the United States and is nationally ranked by U.S. News World & Report in pediatric cardiology and heart surgery, neonatology, pulmonology and urology. A sister campus is under development in Northwest Arkansas and will bring 233,613 square feet of inpatient beds, emergency care, clinic rooms and diagnostic services to children in that corner of the state. Arkansas Children’s also blankets the state with outreach programs that include telemedicine, mobile health, and school-based health solutions. A private not-for-profit, Arkansas Children’s boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking research and is committed to providing every child with access to the best care available, regardless of location or resources. Founded as an orphanage, Arkansas Children’s has championed children by making them better today and healthier tomorrow for more than 100 years. For more info, visit archildrens.org.
July 18, 2017 | A year ago, Reg Hamman of North Little Rock was convinced he had heart problems. There was discomfort in his chest that prompted him to visit his cardiologist.
“It turns out it was acid reflux,” Hamman said. “I was referred to my gastroenterologist who found out through an endoscopy that I had Barrett’s esophagus. I’d never even heard of Barrett’s before. Now suddenly I had it.”
Barrett’s disease is a relatively common pre-cancerous condition in patients with heartburn caused by the repeated exposure of the esophagus to acid refluxing from the stomach. It occurs in about 7 percent of people over age 40 .
Hamman, 71, is a zealous learner. He spent a lot of time finding out exactly what Barrett’s disease is, how to treat it, and which doctor he should see.
“I did a lot of research. I found several different states that had physicians that did the procedure to get rid of Barrett’s,” Hamman said. “After meeting Dr. Tharian, I felt comfortable UAMS was the place to be. Dr. Tharian explained the procedure carefully and with confidence.”
Benjamin Tharian, M.D., is an assistant professor and director of advanced endoscopy in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology in the UAMS College of Medicine. He sees patients in the gastroenterology clinic.
“Barrett’s is concerning because it is a pre-cancerous condition,” Tharian said. “It is to the esophagus, what a polyp is to the bowel or a lump to the breast. We want to prevent it from developing into cancer.”
About a decade ago, the only treatments for Barrett’s disease was prescribing acid inhibitors and close monitoring that included endoscopies with biopsies every three years. If any worrying changes are noted in the biopsy under a microscope, patients used to be referred for an esophagectomy (surgery to remove the food tube).
Two revolutionary treatments have come available in the last 10 years: endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR) and radiofrequency ablation (RFA). Tharian is the only physician who offers the combo-treatment in Arkansas. Cryotherapy is done if RFA/EMR fails and esophagectomy would be the last option.
In EMR, the physician removes abnormal tissue from the esophagus through an endoscope after applying a band. For the radiofrequency ablation, Tharian uses an electrode mounted on a balloon catheter or a metal plate. The ablation coagulates the lining, which Tharian then removes. The scar from the ablation heals with normal tissue in a few days to few weeks. This is an outpatient procedure and the patient is able to eat regular food as early as three to five days depending on their symptoms. Side effects and complications are minimal.
“During his last endoscopy about a month ago (about a year after finding the Barrett’s Disease), we took multiple biopsies at different levels to look for any hidden glands or any changes. There is none at all. That’s the way we confirmed his Barrett’s was gone.”
Tharian says the procedure is successful in removing Barrett’s more than 80 percent of the time and eliminates the high-risk dysplastic tissue almost always. Patients will continue to be monitored long term for recurrence of the disease.
“The whole experience has been educational and positive,” Hamman said. “I feel great and I’m thankful that I’m healed.”
July 5, 2017 | Two years ago, Josh Martin wouldn’t have believed he could walk down the aisle at his own wedding.
Or easily navigate his classroom as an elementary school music teacher.
Or play disc golf with his friends.
Martin was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006, when he was a junior in high school. Every MS patient is different, but for Martin, the potentially debilitating disease that attacks the brain and spinal cord was stable at first, but about two years ago, it started having a big impact on his mobility.
“He’s been in a wheelchair, he’s been in a walker,” said Laura Barganier, a nurse practitioner at UAMS who has worked with Martin for several years. “Most of the time when he came, if he could walk, he could not stand up straight. His muscles were so tight in his legs that he couldn’t stand up, and he was dependent on the cane.”
Because of the signs that Martin’s condition was advancing despite his treatment regimen, Barganier recommended to Lee Archer, M.D., professor and interim chairman of the Department of Neurology, that they consider him as a candidate for Lemtrada, one of several new treatments to come on the market in the last few years that have greatly expanded physicians’ ability to tailor care to the individualized struggles of treating MS.
They have used Lemtrada to treat some of their MS patients with the most severe symptoms.
Martin began his Lemtrada treatments in March 2016. In the first year, he took five days of infusions. This year, he took three days of infusions. He will continue to return to UAMS for bloodwork once a month for five years to check for the potentially harmful side effects of the drug, but otherwise, the drug protocol calls for no further treatments. Before, he was taking daily injections or pills.
Martin said he tried not to get his hopes up going into the treatment – after all, he had already had to readjust his mental image of what his future might look like several times in his young life.
“Knowing exactly what to expect, you still have a little bit of doubt in the back of your mind,” Martin said, “saying, ‘OK, well, I’m been in a wheelchair for over a year now, and then this is coming up, so try not to get too hopeful.’ But then it worked!
“I felt it the day of,” Martin said. “And then that next week it got better and better, and then over the whole year, I started to see more stability in my legs, get my strength back, and that was year one. It just kept on going through this year.”
It wasn’t long before Barganier was getting happy emails from Martin with pictures of him enjoying outdoor activities.
“It’s great to see him get back to the life he had planned,” Barganier said.
Martin said he was better able to function at his job teaching music and the physical agility that comes along with it. And then there was the added joy of being able to walk at his wedding to his wife, Reva, when they got married in November 2016.
“In the back of my mind,” he said, “and I think hers, too, I was constantly thinking, ‘well, am I going to have a cane walking down the aisle with my wife? Am I going to be able to dance with her at my wedding?’ And so that was something that weighs on you. And more her, I think, than me, cause the wedding’s a big deal. But even me, too, because you want to be able to do these things.
“And then when this treatment came through and I was walking without the cane, I was able to walk Reva down the aisle, and I was able to share my first dance with her. That’s a milestone, and we got pictures and videos of that, and I’ll always be able to look at it and remember that we beat MS at this time in my life and we’re able to do these things.”
Archer and Barganier said that Martin is one of about 40 people who they have treated with Lemtrada so far at UAMS. While the strong treatment won’t be a good fit for every patient, they’re optimistic about the responses they’ve seen to the drug and the other treatment options available. Also, with the addition of Carolyn Mehaffey, M.D., who is finishing her time as UAMS’ first MS fellow, getting advanced training in treating MS and other neurological conditions, the MS Clinic at UAMS is taking new patients.
“I just really have been thrilled,” Archer said. “In the last few years, we have gotten these really good options to start treating patients. It’s really gratifying to be practicing at this time.”