Heidi has always been her mom's biggest champion and supporter.
She pressed for a second opinion while her mom was undergoing treatment for lung cancer with a community oncologist. Heidi wanted to ensure her mom, Ina, was getting the most advanced treatment options available.
As a result, Ina’s provider, Dr. Melissa King, referred them to Moffitt Cancer Center, which offers a multispecialty team approach to treatment.
The timing was paramount. Just prior to her first appointment, Ina learned that the cancer had spread to her spine and brain.
"We needed to add additional specialists to my mother's team," said Heidi.
As the family got ready to celebrate the 2021 New Year, Heidi was on the phone with Moffitt’s scheduling team to meet with a multispecialty team consisting of lung, brain and spine cancer experts.
Since Ina lived in the Panhandle, which required long-distance travel to Moffitt in Tampa, it was essential to see all three specialists during the same visit.
"It was a long day, but we’re very grateful for all the accommodations," said Heidi.
Ina’s treatment team, which included Drs. Bruna Pellini, Daniel Oliver and Arnold Etame, developed a comprehensive treatment plan which included a stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) procedure for her brain and radiation for the spine.
"Everyone was so amazing. They were compassionate and treated us like family," said Heidi. "Dr. Oliver was really good about explaining things. My mom felt like she was their only patient and that meant the world to us. He also encouraged family involvement which was great to hear as my brothers (Joe and Rene) and I were part of the caregiver team."
Stereotactic radiosurgery is a highly-targeted cancer treatment. Despite its name, it does not require an invasive surgical procedure, but rather a unique, targeted approach to deliver precise high-dose radiation therapy.
"The goal of the SRS procedure is to provide local control and to stop the tumor from growing."- Daniel Oliver, MD
Carefully shaped radiation beams are used to destroy cancerous cells with great precision. Using advanced technologies, neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists, working together, can pinpoint the radiation delivery field within two millimeters of an intended target. Because of its exceptional accuracy, this treatment is often ideal for addressing tumors in hard-to-reach or delicate locations where traditional surgery may not be an option.
Initially, Ina thought she would only undergo a one-time SRS procedure. However, the procedure was repeated a couple more times to address a few more small tumors that developed in different areas of her brain.
"The goal of the SRS procedure is to provide local control and to stop the tumor from growing," said Dr. Oliver, a neuro radiation oncologist.
After the procedure, Ina said she felt tired and had some pressure on her head but it did not last long.
"The SRS experience was just amazing. The physicist behind the scenes, Dr. Oliver, Hilary and everyone on the team were so wonderful. I was very comfortable and fell asleep during the procedure. If I had to do it again, I would," she said.
For Ina, Heidi and the rest of their family, the journey is still ongoing.
In April 2022, a CT scan showed cancer had moved to Ina’s other lung. She's currently on a different type of chemotherapy administered over four sessions.
Moffitt's Dr. Pellini and Dr. King from Emerald Coast Cancer Center in Ft. Walton Beach are working together on a treatment plan.
"My advice for people who are going through a similar cancer journey is to have a positive attitude," says Ina. "It is crucial to the healing process."