Local woman fights for her life
DENVER Some days she just cries.But even on those days, Denise Townsend is strong, courageous and determined to beat the odds.She is fighting a war against Glioblastoma Multiforme level IV, an aggressive and deadly primary brain tumor. And while doctors have given her a grim outlook, there’s good news from the first stage of battle – the tumor shrunk.”I’m hoping that it will get smaller with each scan,” said Townsend, 31, who was encouraged by the results. “I’m visualizing the tumor getting smaller.”Townsend and her husband, Dan Matts, recently moved from Breckenridge to Denver to be close to Swedish Medical Center, a seemingly second home. Being near the hospital is clearly necessary, but so far the move has been hard on the couple. They left behind a strong support system of friends, and are coping with outrageously high medical bills, daily life stresses and intense treatment.Still, as Townsend sat in her borrowed Denver apartment wearing an artist-style hat to hide her hair’s reaction to chemotherapy, she carried a glow about her. She looked worn from the medications and struggled at times to remember details, but when her husband called her a hero, that seemed the perfect word to describe her.Treating the disease a second roundTownsend found out about the tumor Oct. 7, a few days after she and Matts returned from a trip to the Grand Canyon. She woke up that morning slurring her speech and her right side started to go numb.”I put her in the car and she couldn’t even say my name,” Matts recalled.
Townsend spent 10 days in the hospital and surgeons removed the tumor, but the surrounding cells are still deadly, he continued. That’s what the current treatment is focused on, killing them so they can’t grow, Matts said.Townsend added, “They’re putting poison in my body with the hopes of reducing the tumor size and attacking the tumor site.”About two weeks ago, a “BardPort” was inserted under the skin on the right side of Townsend’s chest. The device feeds medication directly to a main artery.”When she starts to get more sick, veins are going to be hard to come by,” Matts said, explaining the port. Also, if doctors missed the vein, the drugs are so toxic they could burn her skin from the inside out, he added.A scar on the left side of Townsend’s chest faintly shows from the last time she needed a port. When she was 22, she suffered a grand mal seizure, was diagnosed with a less aggressive brain tumor, underwent treatment and made a full recovery.Both times, the cancer came as a complete surprise. Before she was diagnosed the first time, she had never even had a headache. And about four years ago, she had a check-up scan and was told everything looked great and she didn’t need to come back for another seven years unless she was experiencing problems, Matts said.The couple had been dating for about year at that time.Marriage to movingMatts and Townsend, who met when they played on the same recreation softball team, recently celebrated their two-month wedding anniversary. On Nov. 25, they got married while surrounded by about 70 family members and friends in suburban Chicago.
“It went off really stellar,” Matts said. “I’d do it a thousand times again.”Townsend added, “I can’t even tell you how beautiful it was.” She paused, “Now we’re in the thick of it.”When they returned, Townsend was launched into a series of radiosurgery and chemo. So now, married for just over two months, this couple has undergone more stress than most partners will in years.Matts left a job he loved as an EMT at Breckenridge Medical Center. He has been searching for another job in his field, but he’s worried about leaving his wife. “She’s pretty delicate,” he said. “We’re alone. It’s just the three of us.” (Crispy, the couple’s sweet, entertaining cat, is the third.)However, Townsend is hoping that as they get plugged into support groups, she and Matts will be able to develop a network of friends. “People from Breck come down, but it’s hard because Dan and I are having a tough time. … It can’t be easy dealing with me with all the emotions,” she said.Thanks Summit CountyFrom Liz Tovar, a local business owner who offered her Denver apartment to the couple, to Kim Stevenson, of Breckenridge Associates Real Estate (where Townsend used to work) who helped set up a medical fund, and everyone who contributed, cares and is rooting for her, Townsend is tremendously grateful.
“I just hope everyone knows that I appreciate the support, the thoughts, the prayers, the positive energy,” Townsend said.She feels particularly close to a local couple also dealing with this aggressive type of cancer. They sent Townsend a book, “Love, Medicine and Miracles,” after reading about her predicament in the Summit Daily News in November. She is incredibly grateful for the book, and she said it has become her “Holy Grail.””I just can’t even say how much this book has done for me,” Townsend said. “It has just given me something I can do to help this disease go away.”In eight weeks Townsend will get another scan. She is hoping that with each scan what’s left of the tumor will shrink and eventually she will be done with treatment and on her way to recovery.”It’s had its ups and downs. I want to tell you it hasn’t had its downs, but I can’t,” Townsend said. “I just try to keep a positive outlook.””We take it day by day,” she added. “There’s nothing more we can do.”Donations can be made to help Denise Townsend at any Wells Fargo Bank. Just let the teller know you want to contribute to the Denise Townsend Medical Fund. Any amount is appreciated.Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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