Driving home from work is something she does every day. For Heather Knies, it is just a matter of routine. But suddenly, yellow lines start flashing in front of her eyes. She immediately goes into panic mode. A doctor's examination shows that these were the first symptoms of a malignant brain tumor, a class IV glioblastoma.
At that time Heather Knies is only 24 years old and just recently started her first job in Phoenix, Arizona.
This detrimental diagnosis frequently means certain death within a matter of months, a few years at the most. A class IV glioblastoma is a rapidly growing, malignant brain tumor. Even if doctors can slow the progress of the tumor's growth, less than three percent of patients have a life expectancy of more than five years after the initial diagnosis of a primary glioblastoma1.
For Heather Knies it was different. "I'm not a statistic. This is not going to defeat me, I'm not going to lose this battle", is how she describes her reaction shortly after she received the diagnosis with the unfavorable prognosis for the second time. She was 26 at that time and had already undergone a previous surgery on the tumor.
Dr. Robert F. Spetzler, now Director Emeritus of the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona, and his team operated on Heather Knies for a second time. World-renowned neurosurgeon Dr. Spetzler stresses the importance of medical technology, such as fluorescence technology, in brain surgery to ensure that the tumor is removed in its entirety if possible without harming healthy tissue. This can be very tricky depending on the site of the tumor.
After surgery the young woman underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Today, she is free of cancer, married and has a little daughter. Heather Knies doesn't take life for granted anymore: "The best part of my life is waking up every morning, feeling my ten fingers and my ten toes, rolling over, having an amazing husband and having a little girl that runs up to me and calls me Mommy. I’ve just been blessed beyond words."
1World Health Organization (WHO): World Cancer Report 2014, p. 516.