90% of Astrocytomas Are Malignant

…But So Young’s tumor is not. We received the news today from our oncologist that her tumor is of the lowest grade possible for an adult — Type 2. The evaluation was made by a pathologist who evidently is “world renown.” This means that it is “slow-growing” and (in layman’s terms) benign, although to have anything growing in your brain, however slowly, is always a damaging thing, so brain surgeons avoid using that word. (The relative benign-ness or malignancy of brain tumors is based largely on how quickly they grow.) There are a few caveats that I’ll discuss later, but there you have it. Apart from hearing that the tumor has become smaller or gone away, this is the best news a person with a brain tumor can hear. Praise God! This is such a relief to us.

I have included an image of So Young’s tumor below, so you can see what we are up against.

Here are the caveats:

  • The pathologist discovered “a dividing cell” in the sample. This might indicate that the tumor, which is large, also contains Type 3 or 4 cells, although it seems unlikely that much if any of it is malignant, because the MRI does not indicate malignancy.
  • So Young’s symptoms continue to get worse. She feels that her eyesight is declining, and I see increased impairment in her ability to walk. Also, she is sleeping a tremendous amount, and although you can attribute that to the medications or depression, there is little doubt that the tumor is playing some part.
  • The prevailing opinion among the experts looking at our case at Johns Hopkins is that it would be unwise to operate on So Young’s tumor because of the risks. Also, radiation will not likely decrease the size of the tumor. There is some chance it will shrink because of radiation: maybe 25%. This means that she may have to live with the tumor in its current state for the rest of her life. We don’t know whether her eyesight will return.

So there are uncertainties, but there are many reasons to be pleased with this diagnosis. So Young’s prognosis, although not specified by the doctor, is measured in years, not in weeks. Type 4 tumor survivability is indeed measured in weeks. One statistic tells us that 70% of Type 2 patients who receive radiation therapy survive for 5 years after their initial diagnosis. Some brain tumor patients live for 20+ years after diagnosis.

Also, So Young will soon be able to run! Even marathons. The doctor gave her the green light for any kind of exercise and any distance. Now we just need somebody to run those miles with her, since she can’t see. (And if you’re thinking I’m going to do it…)

We are going to start radiation as soon as possible, possibly as early as Christmas week. We are fortunate because So Young may qualify for a clinical trial involving the use of chemotherapy for Type 2 patients. Chemotherapy is not generally used for Type 2 patients but is always used for Type 3 and 4 patients. This would be ideal because of the “dividing cell” issue.

We deliberated about whether to continue going to Hopkins for radiation due to the distance from our home. We decided that we will get the best care possible there. So Young and I couldn’t be more pleased with the team that is working on our case.


20 Responses

  1. This is great news, just about as good as it could have been, I suppose. I wish I lived close enough to go running with So Young. Although it might be humiliating to be left in the dust by someone undergoing chemotherapy. Congrats on the good diagnosis. Shame on the dividing cells. May they never more show their sniveling faces!

    • We are both laughing out loud here in Virginia, big bro! Thanks for the comment. Miss and love you guys. — James and So Young

  2. Good news indeed! Ruby, you and your family have been in our thoughts everyday. And to get the okay to run again is fantastic, too! Knowing the bunch on that forum, I’m quite sure you’ll have no shortage of volunteers that would love to run with you in a marathon! My guess is you’d have your own entourage!

    One step at a time, though, right? Hang in there! I gotta believe your fitness from years of running will pay off here in some way.

    Best wishes!
    -Ron (MCM Ron)

    Also, I have to say I’m amazed at your family’s strength!

  3. I haven’t even read the entire post but I have to say right away… hallelujah!!! This is really positive news! Hugs to you both!

  4. We are grateful, So Young, for your diagnosis. John 7:38 reads; “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.’

    May His living water continue to flow abundantly in you two and your family!

  5. I think the whole world just breathed a sigh of relief with you guys. Praise God!

  6. Thank Goodness. Now…we all would thank You for some shrinkage followed by a disappearing act. Amen.

  7. Say the word my friend, and I’ll come on down and we can go for a run in the neighborhood. I just hope I can keep up with you. Many Blessings.

  8. This is fantastic news!!! James, give Soyoung a big hug for me and Sungjin. also, let me know which races she’s planning to run in next year. i’d like to join you guys.

  9. Very good news indeed! Let us pray that this tumor can be beaten.

    My wife got into a clinical trial when she was very ill and it was well worth it. The new drug cured her disease where the existing drugs were not working.


  10. Ruby, this is great news and I’m so very happy for you and your family. You’ll be in my prayers for that tumor to shrink. I do know that there will be more volunteers to run marathons with you then there are marathons. So take your pick.

  11. This is great news!! Will be praying for you and your family and for the tumor to shrink.

  12. Hope things continue to go in the right direction for Team Gage. All though the supply of people to run with Ruby probally is endless I was wondering if she has a treadmill for the not so good days.

    • Paul,

      She does indeed! And, like all runners, she loves that thing…


  13. Ruby and James, Great news, you will stay in our prayers, I would love to run with you anytime. Always looking for a reason to run somewhere other than SE NC. But if you would like to run in Coastal NC we could make that happen also. Both of ya’ll take care of yourselves and the family.

  14. i’m sooooooo thrilled, relieved & thankful as i read this! type 2…that was what you guys & we all were praying for!!! PRAISE GOD for His grace & goodness!
    will give you guys a ring to plan out some more meals, visits, etc. w/ your christmas & treatment schedules!
    and i’m visiting so young next wed. so maybe we can go for a walk, run, etc.!!! we’ll just have to bundle up!!! : >

  15. Praise God for this news! We are so relieved that this is the lowest grade tumor…will continue to pray that the upcoming radiation treatments will shrink this tumor as much as possible with minimal side effects. Stay strong in the Lord for He is good! Also, just want to let you know that McLean Bible Church is also praying for you, So Young, and your family (one of Jonathan’s patients goes to McLean Bible and has placed your name in their prayer bulletin). Even though we’re not runners ourselves, we will ‘run’ this race with you!

  16. Wow-great news James and hope that things just get better! I’ll go running with So Young–one of us would have to travel a fair distance though!! Your strength and courage as demonstrated throughout your blog is inspirational! My prayers for continued blessing are with you and your family

  17. I’m grateful and amazed at your faithful spirits, So Young and James. Keep your eyes on the goal and trust in our Lord Jesus Christ. I love you.

  18. I’m glad to hear the tumor is one of the less bad types. Ruby, I live about an hour south of you and would be happy to come up and do some training runs with you. My pace is about 12:30, so you’ll have to get used to running slower than your normal pace!

    On the topic of “being strong,” I recently read something about that. The gist was that if you put up a strong face all the time, you end up shutting people out. We’ve all been through pain & can relate, even if the situation isn’t exactly the same. It’s good all around when one person can offer comfort to another person. If we’re trying too hard to “be strong” we deprive ourselves of the comfort our friends want to offer and we deprive them of the chance to help a friend. So don’t be TOO strong. There are times it’s appropriate to be sad, shakey, grieving, uncertain, & needing help and comfort. Just let it all in.

    Much love,

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