Francine's 'Bump in the Road'
If you ask Francine Kulp’s many friends and fans on Facebook to describe her, they’ll tell you she’s an inspiration. If you ask Kulp, she’ll say she’s just doing her best to handle a “bump in the road.” Since 2015, the 65-year-old Pottstown-area resident has been receiving treatment for stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer from Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) hematologist oncologist Usman Shah, MD. “He explained that what I have is treatable but not curable,” Kulp says.
After undergoing intense chemotherapy at the beginning of her care, she now receives maintenance chemotherapy once every three weeks to keep the lung cancer in check.
Kulp also is dealing with the spread of cancer to the brain, discovered after her initial lung cancer diagnosis. To manage those lesions, she’s had radiosurgery performed by radiation oncologist Alyson McIntosh, MD, and neurosurgeon Mei Wong, MD, using Gamma Knife® Perfexion.™
Ultra Precise Gamma Knife®
Usman Shah, MD
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Mei Wong, MD
Kulp smiles recalling her first meeting with McIntosh. “We hit it off immediately,” she says.
“It was mutual,” says McIntosh, who recalls her first meeting with Kulp was focused on family. “Francine is a wife, mother and grandmother in the purest sense. She wants to do everything she can to enjoy each day with her family, and we are doing our best to make that happen.”
Gamma Knife Perfexion is a stereotactic radiotherapy treatment offered exclusively in this area by LVHN. It uses precisely targeted radiation to destroy cancerous and noncancerous tumors and other lesions of the head.
“We use 3-D positioning with a halo device to ensure the gamma rays are precisely focused on the lesion or tumor,” McIntosh says. This means that unlike other radiotherapy options that require several treatments, Gamma Knife delivers the full radiation dose in just one treatment.
“Each treatment takes 20 minutes to an hour or more, depending on the number of lesions or areas we need to target,” McIntosh says.
After Gamma Knife
Following Gamma Knife radiosurgery, patients may have a headache or feel worn out. In Kulp’s case, she felt very tired and slept at home following her initial Gamma Knife treatment in 2015.
“The first time, we took care of seven spots on the brain,” Kulp says. “It was very successful and painless.”
In February 2016, an additional brain lesion was found and treated right away. “Dr. McIntosh took care of it within a week of finding it. I had an MRI on Tuesday; she called Wednesday, and we set up the Gamma Knife appointment immediately. That’s what I like about LVHN,” Kulp says.
Maneuvering around her ‘bump in the road’
During the summer of 2015, Kulp was in the midst of regular chemotherapy, which kept her out of circulation. This past summer, Kulp was back in the mix and spent her days taking her grandchildren to crafts classes, swimming with them in her pool and putting creative energy into her home garden for a contest. “I entered the category, ‘Everything but the Kitchen Sink.’ I used everything including a hot pink bicycle. This garden makes me happy,” she says. In honor of her fanciful garden, Kulp captured second prize.
As she continues her chemotherapy regimen and regular imaging scans, Kulp remains focused on those closest to her. “Do I fight so hard to live for me or for my family? I think I fight for my family,” she says. “I don’t want to see them worried about me. I’m feisty and will keep after this for as long as possible.”
Conditions Treated by Gamma Knife® Perfexion™
Gamma Knife can treat many malignant and benign conditions in adults and children, including:
- Acoustic neuromas
- Pituitary adenomas
- Brain metastases
- Glial tumors
- Arteriovenous malformations (AVMs)
- Trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux)