(WGHP) — Some refer to the brain as the control center of the body or the seat of the soul. It’s what dictates our emotions, memory, vision, and every process that regulates our body.
When cancer attacks the brain, it’s a battle some people don’t get much time to fight.
“I thought I was just a sinus infection but then they found the cancer.”
In July of 2017, Julia Peacock got some of the worst news imaginable. It was news she never expected. “It was a golfball-sized tumor on my frontal lobe”
At 48 years old, doctors told Julia, who was enjoying her dream job traveling the country as a flight attendant that she had brain cancer. Specifically a glioblastoma, the form of brain cancer that ultimately claimed senator John McCain and Beau Biden’s lives.
Doctors did not give Julia a very good prognosis initially. “She said ‘Julia you’re not going back to work as a flight attendant. You need to go back to North Carolina and rewrite the ending to your story.’” That did not sit well with this career-oriented woman. “I didn’t accept that. I said ‘no, nope, nope you don’t know me I’m not just going to give up.'”
Glioblastoma is one of the rarest forms of cancer of the brain and is one of the few that start inside the brain, otherwise known as a ‘primary tumor’ however most tumors found in the brain are secondary cancer.
Dr. Zachary Vaslow with Cone Health’s Department of Neuro-oncology explains, “What we call a secondary or metastatic brain tumor. That is a tumor that comes from cancer somewhere else in the body, like a lung cancer, breast cancer, melanoma or something like that.”
These secondary tumors make up about 90% of all brain tumors and tumors in the brain are some of the most difficult to treat because of how sensitive the brain is and how it is protected compared to the rest of the body.
“One of the reasons for that is something called the blood-brain barrier which is a dividing line or wall between the brain and the rest of the body and makes the brain privileged territory.” Doctor Vaslow went on to detail that this barrier means that only certain drugs can attack the tumors, cutting the list of treatment options significantly. “We have to rely on things like surgery and radiation therapy that go around that barrier.”
Julia has been getting treatment in the form of an Optune device on her head. It shocks her brain with an alternating current for 18 hours a day which stunts cell division helping prevent the formation of new tumors. “It is not a cure. They haven’t found one for glio but it does add days.” It added years to Julia’s life.
Doctors gave her a year to live that was 5 years ago.
Julia says she still has a lot of hope. “You can’t give up hope, nobody in this world is without hope.”
Julia lost her hair during radiation treatments but never changed how she lived her life. She says the love of her family and the medical staff’s support gave her the will to fight. “Just because life gave you a cactus doesn’t mean you have to sit on it. Live for the days where you don’t feel like you have cancer.”