My name is Chad. I'm 42 years old, and I live in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I've been married to my lovely wife Angela for 23 years. We have a 20-year-old son, who’s now attending University of New Mexico, and we have twin daughters that are now 14. They're freshmen at Cibola High School. Both made the volleyball team and keep us really busy.
Having the diagnosis of GBM has totally changed our lives. It's brought me a new focus and a new sense of urgency to make sure that I'm committed to living my life the right way and, enjoying the memories and moments that we have. It started with a couple visits to the doctor for being light headed and dizzy and what we had thought was possibly a heat stress episode in the backyard. About a month later, I remember getting what I thought was a sinus headache—and that lasted for about three weeks—and the doctors ran a full set of scans and informed me that they saw a tumor behind my right eye. Four days later—from the other facility—I had surgery, which confirmed glioblastoma stage four.
One of the things when I woke up from surgery that I was told that kind of scared me a little bit was “All we can do is offer radiation and chemotherapy.” The way they explained it to me was the worst type of cancer you could have, and there is no getting over it.
I was just shocked because you never think anything like this will ever happen to you.
After I was diagnosed, and we were looking for treatment options, I received an e-mail from my aunt telling me about this new treatment that's out there. I pulled it up on the web; it really was intriguing. We didn't have to travel anywhere. We could use it here at home. Discussed it with my wife and said we'd like to look into it. We talked with my doctors, my oncologist—my radio oncologist—and have gotten it prescribed.
After our diagnosis, Angela and I had discussed renewing our vows because that meant a lot to us. We coordinated everything just prior to starting treatment with Optune, and at the renewing of our vows—the reception—we actually made my head shaving part of the whole thing, so everybody could see that how serious. We were with continuing our life and our fight.
Starting Optune and working with our care team at UNM, we're put in touch with people who talked up from NovaCare. Our device support specialist Janet had been in contact with us for quite a while prior to starting. She gave us a lot of tips, a lot of pointers, and just briefed us on how to apply the device and maintain and take care of it.
When I heard that I was going be the one to change the arrays I was a little intimidated because I'm not in the medical field at all. So I was nervous, but I quickly got used to it. I was used to it after the first couple of times.
Angela has always been a very special person to me since I first met her. Since diagnosis, she's been with me every step of the way, from staying with me in the hospital to renewing our vows and agreeing that she’d be with me the rest of the way. On a monthly basis, managing both temozolomide and Optune is pretty simple. We had to maintain our appointments with the oncologist for the temozolomide and make sure that we have the device powered on for 18 hours a day––minimum is our target.
I want to treat as long as we possibly can and increase my compliances. One of the setbacks that we encounter to being able to have a higher compliance number was we live in the desert where it gets hot. My hair happens to grow pretty quick. With those two conditions—a lot of sweat, growing hair—my arrays and the adhesive that holds the arrays to my head tend to need to be changed more often. Additionally, can cause some skin irritation. In order for skin irritation to heal you got to let it air out a little bit, and my wife's been real good at pointing out that I need to have a little more time with the device actually physically off my body, so my head doesn't get bad or to a point where it—the device—is not helping us.
I'm currently employed at Los Alamos National Laboratories in New Mexico. Working with opportune is really not challenging at all. I have a set up at work where I walk in in the morning before everybody gets there, unplug my battery, plug the device in, and do my work at my desk, so it hasn't been much of a challenge at all. I like to do woodworking, crafting, starting to pick up embroidery, rc control, camping. The device is pretty portable. Optune and the camping trips hasn't really been a lot of work either. We have a plug-in unit. If we're sitting inside the camper, I just plug it in to one of the wall outlets, which is run by the generator, or if we're out ATVing—or anything like that—I actually just use the battery packs.
Since the GBM diagnosis, we've put a little more emphasis on trying to get everyone together and do it more often. It's just great to get up, spend time with friends and family barbecuing, playing horseshoes, telling stories—blends in really easy with everything we do. I have coached youth sports and youth activities for 16 years now. With the GBM diagnosis, I can roll over and die and just wait for it to come, but that's not how I was built. That's not who I am, and that's not what I've ever expected of any of the kids I've ever coached.
To other care givers: If it seems intimidating or it seems maybe that you wouldn't be the type of person to do this, I would say that it's a lot easier than it seems at first. It does seem intimidating, but once you do it two times you're used to it.
Having Optune available to other newly diagnosed patients will bring hope. We feel it a blessing and are humbled to be given the opportunities to share our testimony and our story with all those that might be looking for some kind of encouragement or may need another voice to hear. We can't express how grateful we are for the new technologies and the opportunities to keep on fighting. It is another tool to use in this horrible fight that none of us knew we were going to be getting into and none of us were prepared for.