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At an age when most young women are just finding their place in life, Abby Miller was fighting for hers. Five years ago, at age 25, Miller was having trouble sleeping and was reacting poorly to sleep-inducing medications. She was sent for a brain scan, where doctors found something unexpected - a growth unrelated to her sleep problems. Six neurosurgeons from several hospitals assured Miller it couldn't be cancer - not at her age. A doctor referral led Miller to Jack Rock, M.D., a neurosurgeon at Henry Ford Hospital, who agreed to surgically remove what they discovered was an astrocytoma, a star-shaped brain tumor.
Miller, who was concerned about successfully coming through surgery, says she was especially touched after learning Rock sat by her bedside when she was coming out of anesthesia. Working with Henry Ford neuro-oncologist Tom Mikkelsen, M.D., Rock removed the tumor, but it recurred in three months. Six weeks of radiation and one year later, Miller's cancer is gone, and both patient and physicians are thrilled with the outcome. "I could have gone with the doctors who said my tumor was nothing," says Miller. "I definitely feel very lucky. Had I not gone to Henry Ford, the tumor could have gotten so big and maybe not been as easy to treat." Mikkelsen and Rock say collaboration and unwavering focus on the patient were critical in Miller's case. "No question, treating brain tumors is a team sport," says Mikkelsen.
"At some point along the way, you decide whether you care about treating patients or diseases," says Rock. "And if it's patients, then you tend to be much more successful in your work."