SOURCE: Neurologic and Orthopedic Institute of Chicago

April 16, 2007 10:00 ET

Suburban Chicago Brain Tumor Patients Highlight Importance of Hope and Work Ethic in Post Surgical Life

CHICAGO, IL -- (MARKET WIRE) -- April 16, 2007 -- Nancy O'Connell and Colman Grealish have virtually nothing in common. O'Connell is a 49-year old Glen Ellyn resident who manages her husband's law firm. Grealish is a 55- year old plumber from Roselle.

Yet, both are among a handful of patients who have lived in excess of 10 years after being diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Typical life expectancy for patients afflicted with these types of malignant tumors is usually not more than five years. How they managed to accomplish this may provide a lesson in hope for others.

According to a report from the National Cancer Data Base, (NCDB) five-year survival rates for a range of brain tumors range from 2 percent for glioblastomas to 70 percent for meningiomas. Age, general health condition, location of the tumor and behavior are all instrumental in survival outcomes, according to the report.

While neurosurgeons at the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch, where both were treated, don't know the cause of their brain tumors or all the various factors that lead to survival, they have noticed anecdotally that patients who come out of their surgery with a purpose in life, tend to do better.

"Clearly, both Nancy and Colman's surgeries were successful, in terms of removing the total tumor seen on MRI. In addition, both patients had another thing in common," said Dr. Edward Mrkdichian, the neurosurgeon who treated Nancy and Colman. "They both had a strong desire to work and make a contribution to society." Dr. Mkridichian strongly believes that emphasis on treating the individual -- and not dwelling on the dismal statistics -- is also critical to good patient outcomes.

O'Connell was 36 years of age when diagnosed and while she had no history of seizures; she suffered a grand mal seizure the week before Thanskgiving, 1993. Her surgery was followed by radiation and eight months of chemotherapy. While she recovered from the surgery, neighbors and friends came over and cooked her meals and helped her with daily activities.

"I recall that my friends and neighbors pitched in and helped me with my recovery," she said. "Maybe it was that generosity or the fact that the surgery was around Christmas time but I recall wanting to give something back and make a difference, once I recovered."

O'Connell dedicated her post surgery life to helping the very people who saved her life -- the neurosurgeons, nurses and staff at the Chicago Institute of Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch. She is an active volunteer for The CINN Foundation.

"I've found that helping The CINN Foundation is the ultimate way I can give back to the doctors and nurses who took care of me while I'm also helping raise funds for research and new technologies," she said.

Colman Grealish's work ethic contributed to his seizure but probably contributed to his successful recovery.

Grealish had put in a typically long day back in 1990 and was helping his neighbors across the street on a plumbing job when he passed out.

"I woke up three days later and my wife told me the doctors had removed a brain tumor," he said.

Like many men, Grealish had never seen a physician regularly for preventive care and he was a habitual smoker and drinker. However, when he woke up from his surgery, he vowed to change his habits.

After being released from the hospital, Grealish was instructed not to drive so he took the train to his chemotherapy appointments and began pressing his boss to return to work soon.

"At first, my boss didn't want me to work full time but I was able to convince him to put me back on a full 40 hour work week soon after the surgery," he said. He credits this desire to work as well as good fortune and excellent medical care with his recovery.

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    Chris Martin
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