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The tumor that was a blessing – Cyberknife treatment that saved the life of a grateful patient

Imagine having a reoccurring toothache, then going to your physician to request a higher prescription of pain medicine, all to find out that request is denied and instead a referral for a MRI is suggested which then leads to the discovery of a brain tumor?

This is what 64-year-old uninsured former Catholic School teacher, Ethel Wentink, experienced once she learned that she needed a MRI from constant pain that surfaced on the right side of her mouth up through the side of her head that proved to be a meningioma brain tumor. This type of benign brain tumor, in its current state, is not life-threatening but it needed to be removed or killed. After receiving, “the most devastating news you could hear”, said Wentink, she began the search for treatment options.

At the time of her research, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital had just began its Cyberknife treatment options, which includes frameless robotic radiosurgery system used for treating benign tumors, malignant tumors and other medical conditions. Despite its name, CyberKnife involves no knives or scalpels. Instead, this technology utilizes a combination of CT imaging and computer-controlled robotics to deliver precise treatment with no incision, no blood loss and no pain.

 “Without this treatment the tumor would grow and cause an increase of pain, neurologic problems including stroke and facial weakness,” said Dr. John Ruge, Neurological Surgeon at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL. “In Wentink’s case it was suggested by a multidisciplinary team of surgeons that Cyberknife treatment be used instead of surgery.”

After only three 1-hour sessions of 147 Cyberknife laser beams precisely directed at Ethel’s tumor, slight bruises and no malfunctions of motor control her tumor is completely non-life threatening.

After being free of cancer risks, Ethel was left with remaining treatment bills, having no insurance she applied for Financial Charity Care, which she was granted. “I just couldn’t take their financial assistance and walk away,” said Wentink. Therefore, she decided to take classes at Lutheran General Hospital’s volunteer program. Today, Wentink has completed over 300 volunteer hours in less than a year, where she is part of the art cart team, making flowers for inpatients.

Ethel views her brain tumor as “the tumor that was a blessing” getting her out the house, meeting new people and friends. She is enjoying her volunteer experience so much that she is now completing classes to become a volunteer for Advocate Children’s Hospital.

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