New dad gets ependymoma brain tumor diagnosis one day after son’s birth

A specialized team of brain surgeons, oncologists, radiation specialists and others spring into action with same-day appointment.

March 2016 was a life-changing time for the Davis family. On March 23, Matt Davis and his wife, Hailey, celebrated the birth of their son, Finley. The next day, Matt learned he had a rare brain tumor – ependymoma.

Prior to his son’s birth, Matt had undergone testing to find the reason for his troubling two-year history of headaches, dizziness and periodic blurred vision. He underwent an MRI on March 24.

As the new dad visited his wife and son later that day, the MRI center called. Matt needed to get to his doctor — fast!

Matt drove from the hospital straight to his primary care provider’s office. The MRI confirmed he had a brain tumor. He was told he would be scheduled to see a specialist, but Matt wanted answers right away.

In short order, Matt met with Patrick Williams, M.D., an oncologist at Norton Cancer Institute. Dr. Williams looked at Matt’s MRI and immediately scheduled him to see David A. Sun, M.D., Ph.D., neurosurgeon with Norton Neuroscience Institute.

Matt described what happened during his four-hour appointment with neurosurgery and oncology specialists who work together through the Brain Tumor Center, a collaborative program of Norton Neuroscience Institute and Norton Cancer Institute.

  • Sun went over his scans and a well-defined plan for surgery and follow-up radiation treatment.
  • Aaron C. Spalding, M.D., Ph.D., radiation oncologist, went over the six-week radiation care plan in detail.
  • Renato V. LaRocca, M.D., an oncologist who specializes in brain tumors, provided more specifics about Matt’s tumor and what to expect going forward.

Celebrating 10 years of comprehensive neurology services

When Norton Neuroscience Institute was established in 2009, it was as a promise to the community that much-needed neurological care would be available close to home. Over the past 10 years, Norton Neuroscience Institute has grown from 16 providers to more than 60 in a wide variety of specialties and support services.

According to Dr. Spalding, this integrated approach helps provide the best care possible. The patient can have their case reviewed by a team and undergo surgery, if needed, in two to three days.

“Individually, our disciplines provide excellent patient care, but coordinating across specialties is a good example of how the whole can be so much more than the sum of its parts,” he said.

Ependymoma: a rare tumor

 Matt’s surgery to remove the brain tumor lasted more than 10 hours. Identified as an ependymoma, the tumor measured about 3.5 centimeters (just less than 1.4 inches) and was wrapped around his brain stem.

Ependymomas are rare and usually grow slowly. It’s not uncommon to live with one for a long time with no major symptoms. Since the site of origin often prevents complete surgical removal, radiation therapy is typically used to destroy remaining disease cells.

Brain Tumor Center

If you’ve been diagnosed with a brain tumor, you want to start getting better right away. That’s why we offer same-day appointments for newly diagnosed patients.

Call (502) 629-HOPE (4673)

Incredibly lucky

 Matt has done well in the two years since his diagnosis. He has experienced few side effects from his surgery and 33 radiation treatments, and will get regular follow-ups over the next two years.

“I feel incredibly lucky,” Matt said. “Dr. Sun told me it’s almost unheard of to have a tumor this size and walk away with no physical deficits.”

Family and friends celebrated his 37th birthday with a casino-themed fundraiser to help cover some of the family’s medical bills, with the rest donated to the Norton Healthcare Foundation to have a room named in Matt’s honor at Norton Cancer Institute – Brownsboro.

The Davises got to know Dr. Spalding well during Matt’s many radiation treatments. When they dropped by for a recent visit, Dr. Spalding was delighted to meet the family’s newest member, 7-month-old Elly.

“Life is full of miracles,” Dr. Spalding said with a smile.


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