TELLER COUNTY — According to the National Brain Tumor Society, glioblastoma is one of the most "complex, deadly, and treatment-resistant cancers." More than 10,000 Americans are estimated to succumb to glioblastoma every year, and the average survival length is anywhere from 12 to 18 months.
A family living in Florissant wants to raise awareness about this aggressive kind of cancer.
Tammie Lowell-Davidson married her longtime friend, Jon Davidson, on October 4 of 2019. Jon was diagnosed with glioblastoma on January 6, 2020. "Memory issues, and then once he started getting the headaches, being a dispatcher, I'm like, you're going to the emergency room," said Tammie, who worked as a dispatcher for 14 years with the Cripple Creek Police Department.
Doctors found a brain tumor around the size of a golf ball and performed a surgery to try and remove it. "It's kind of like having a cup of sugar, and you dump a tablespoon of salt in it and try to get it out really fast. You're never going to get every speck. And that's the way it is with a glioblastoma resection, because they can't take out all of it because it's part of the brain. It becomes a part of the brain," said Tammie.
Tammie said doctors believed they removed the majority of the tumor, and the surgery was followed by 30 days of radiation, and then chemotherapy. Unfortunately, Jon's body was resistant to the chemotherapy treatment.
Tammie searched for clinical trials, but the only one available was not recommended by doctors because it was too risky. She's a Native American Herbalist, and found a phytotherapy study out of Bosnia for glioblastoma. She recreated the therapy and made it into tinctures for Jon. Tammie said that combined with immunotherapy medications helped reduce the tumors for a time, but then more tumors were found in Jon's brain. "They [the tumors] knew we were winning, and so they went into the other side and created their own blood supply. And they're smart, they are literally smart. They will find a way to survive, one way or another," said Tammie.
Tammie retired from her dispatch job to help Jon with the cancer. "The dispatcher in me, a lot of times, is what got me through. It gets me through the hard times. That and being Native American... You have to be tough, you have to make it through it, and then you let it out," said Tammie.
Tammie's daughter-in-law, Amie Konkol, said living in such a rural part of Colorado has made treatment very time consuming. "It takes a while, takes 45 minutes to an hour every doctor's appointment, every chemotherapy appointment, every radiation appointment, anything that had to do with his treatment, MRI's, all of it. We'd get ready an hour and a half to almost two hours prior to start heading down the mountain. And that was a lot for him," said Konkol.
The family said by spreading awareness about glioblastoma, they hope to get one step closer to finding a cure. "With any type of cancer we always say, there's always hope. So never, ever give up hope," said Tammie.