Tribute: Diane Blazer
Renal Cell Carcinoma
Diagnosed in 2008 with renal cell carcinoma
of the left kidney, Diane
Blazer has had many treatments including chemotherapy and radiation since. But she doesn’t want you to feel bad for her. Instead, she is thankful for all of the blessings in her life, including her caregivers at the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Just 2 years ago, Diane began experiencing bladder issues and sought help from a urologist. Her tests revealed renal cell carcinoma that would require the removal of her left kidney. The cancer has spread over time, and she has experienced the growth of new tumors including in her right kidney, brain, spine, elbow and shoulder as well as complications with tissue damage, dehydration, bone spurs, blood clots and a pathological fracture due to a weakened spine.
In March, 2009 Diane was referred to Dr. Daniel Green
, a radiation oncologist at UT Medical Center, who recommended she undergo CyberKnife
for the two metastatic brain lesions. “Utilizing stereotactic radiosurgery with the CyberKnife system allowed high dose treatments to limited areas where the cancer was located in the brain and spine,” Dr. Green explains. “This was important because of the need to spare adjacent, critically important, normal nervous tissue in the brain and spinal cord and because renal cell carcinoma often responds better to high dose radiation treatments than to lower dose treatments.”
Unfortunately for Diane, despite chemotherapy, new brain lesions developed and she underwent CyberKnife treatment again in August 2009. While receiving treatment she noted back pain; an MRI scan was done which revealed metastatic disease to her thoracic spine. Once again the CyberKnife was utilized, this time to treat an area close to her spinal cord. Due to its precision there was no concern for spinal injury from radiation and Diane experienced quick relief from her back pain. Fortunately the use of CyberKnife’s high dose radiation did not negate using standard radiation for treating Diane’s metastatic disease in several areas of her body, including the brain.
“CyberKnife did a great job shrinking and inactivating the tumors, but then they would find more,” Diane explains. “I had a total of 14 brain tumors that have required radiation and CyberKnife not to mention the problems with my spine, elbow and shoulder. I have had no problems with my back since the radiation. This treatment has improved my quality of life.”
Diane knows that without her treatments, she would not be doing what she does today. Through everything, she has had incredible support from her husband of 34 years, Randy; her son, Dustin, an elementary school teacher; and her sister in laws, Brenda Ellis and Linda Blazer (along with Diane dubbed the “Cocke County Cuddle Bunnies” by the CyberKnife staff), who take her to her treatments and assist her with anything she needs. Blazer has even taken the last 2 summers off work to help her sister-in-law. “It’s been a battle,” Ellis says, “but she’s tough. We try to do anything we can for her. UT Medical Center has been great to us, too. Even down to the transporters, we all are so well taken care of.”
Although independent in spirit and doesn’t like asking for help, Diane feels extremely lucky to have such a great family that assist her anyway. “At times I wanted to give up,” Diane says. “But God has blessed me with my family to help get me through.”
A 52-year-old grandmother, Diane continues the battle and, with the help of her family, she continues working as a secretary and enjoying every second with her athletic grandsons, Logan and Dorian – hardly ever missing a game – and assisting the family in canning food from their farm despite her diagnosis. “She is special to us,” says Linda. “By God’s grace we got her this far.”
Diane doesn’t know where she would be right now without the CyberKnife treatment and Dr. Green. “Dr. Green is my hero, and I credit him with everything. When I am at UT Medical Center being treated, it’s like I’m the only patient here. There is no better staff anywhere than the UT Medical Center staff and CyberKnife staff. I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.”