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Massey patient shares gratitude for his care team: “I can’t thank them enough”

Nov 22, 2022

Eastman speaks with Story, his NP Lauren Story, FNP, shows Eastman the results of an MRI

Jeff Eastman has much to be thankful for. This Thanksgiving, Eastman, the university planner at VCU, is sending a message of gratitude to his care team at Massey Cancer Center.

In June, Eastman completed a year of adjuvant therapy after receiving surgery, radiation and chemotherapy treatment for a brain tumor that changed his life in a matter of hours. Eastman’s disease has remained stable since his diagnosis.

In a letter to Robert A. Winn, M.D., director and Lipman Chair in Oncology at Massey, Eastman wrote, “As I reflect on what I have gone through I feel compelled to tell you what wonderful care I received through VCU, at every level.”

In February 2021, Eastman was putting together furniture with his son when he suddenly had trouble reading the directions and found himself struggling to speak. His wife took him to an emergency room where tests revealed a growth on the left temporal lobe of his brain. Just two days later, Eastman underwent surgery to remove a glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive tumor arising in the brain’s glial cells.

Not long after the surgery, Eastman moved his care to Massey under Mark Malkin, M.D., the former chair of Massey’s division of neuro-oncology, who Eastman called “a blessing from the moment we met him.”

Malkin, along with Lauren Story, a family nurse practitioner (FNP) with the neuro-oncology program at Massey, showed Eastman kindness and translated complex medical information into something understandable for a layperson. Eastman wrote that Story “became an incredible advocate for me as a patient.”

He first faced six weeks of daily radiation and chemotherapy. After the initial intensive treatment, he transitioned to a cycle of five days of chemo every month for a year. Eastman expressed thanks to two Massey radiation oncologists: Timothy Harris, M.D., Ph.D., developed the plan for his radiation, “one of the items that I credit for my success in treatment,” and met with him weekly; then, when he needed to move his treatment to the Stony Point location, Todd Adams, M.D., saw him through his last week of radiation. “The care that Dr. Adams provides to his patients is bar none,” Eastman wrote.

George Emerson Eastman with Todd Adams, M.D. on his final day of radiation.

Not surprisingly, the treatment took as much of an emotional toll on Eastman as a physical one. Malkin introduced him to Massey neuropsychologist Ashlee Loughan, Ph.D.; “she provided regular therapy to my wife and me as we came to terms with my diagnosis and treatment,” wrote Eastman. “She has changed the way we live.” Loughan encouraged the Eastman family to “live in the now” — take trips, celebrate milestones and make memories. Additionally, Loughan conducts periodic cognitive assessments to monitor any changes in Eastman’s brain function, specifically in relation to his communication skills, since the tumor was in his brain’s language center.

Eastman’s list of appreciation went on to include Kisha Booker, RRT, “my respiratory therapist who delivered monthly medicine to me to make sure I didn’t get pneumonia during treatment and was another ray of light. Warm and welcoming, she was someone that I looked forward to seeing every month.”

Eastman also credits fellow glioblastoma patients for helping him get through a difficult time – something he’s now paying forward in support he gives to people who have since received the same diagnosis. “I’m thankful to be there for other folks,” Eastman said. “I hate that I have to be — I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to face this — but if I can provide the same sort of support that I got early on, if that changes the way someone enters into the treatment, I’m happy to do it.”

In his letter of thanks, Eastman said in closing, “These folks guided me through a truly terrifying time in my life. I can’t thank them enough for being by my side through all of it, and wanted to make sure that you knew what wonderful caretakers you have on your teams.”

Written by: Annie Harris

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