Doctors diagnosed Erik Humphrey with a grade 3 brain cancer. He had a tumor the size of two golf balls.
"I was waiting to die i thought, all i knew is it was bad." he remembers.
Living with this for more than three years is rare. Doctor Kris Smith of Barrow Neurological Institute recommended Erik try something that could give hime more time called sub-pial resection. It focuses on functional divisions in the brain called the gyri.
"When a tumor occurs, Dr. Smith says, "it usually occurs in this type of glioma, within one gyrus."
The aggressive technique removes not just the tumor, but the entire gyrus involved.
Dr. Smith explains, "my belief is that you have to be as aggressive as possible getting to that natural border. If a gyrus is already infiltrated and sacrificed just take the whole thing, don't leave any of it behind."
The surgeon says the subpial approach and months of daily radiation, coupled with a year of treatment with a powerful new chemo drug called Temodar, can give people like Erik a better chance at a longer life.
It's been nine years, three times as long as Erik's best survival odds predicted. Though the brain surgery cost him some of the movement in his left arm and leg, to him it's a small price to pay for more time. (:12)
Doctor Smith is one of the only doctors in the United States using the sub-pial resection approach to fight malignant brain tumors. He's currently teaching the technique to surgeons from around the world.