University of California San Francisco
How a 15-month Prognosis Became 22 Years and Counting
Photos by Barbara Ries, Stephen Babuljak and Noah Berger
When Cheryl Broyles was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a deadly brain tumor, her goal was to outlive the disease’s 15-month prognosis long enough for the younger of her two toddler sons to reach kindergarten.
That was 22 years ago.
Broyles’ survival has been the result of luck, tumor location, and cutting-edge treatment and diagnostics.
She’s had multiple recurrences. UC San Francisco neurosurgeon Mitchel Berger has removed most of these using techniques like Gamma Knife surgery, which shoots intense, regionally precise doses of radiation at cancer cells.
Every three months, Broyles travels from her home in Klamath Falls, Ore., to UCSF’s Parnassus Heights campus, where she has an MRI to monitor tumor status.
Through the years, she’s built a trusting partnership with neuro-oncologist Nicholas Butowski, who at one point recommended no treatment after removing a tumor, “reserving it for later in case we need it.”
“Later” came and a tumor specimen was sequenced using the UCSF 500 Cancer Gene Panel. It identified two potential chemo drugs usually only used for melanoma. Those drugs were credited for keeping her tumors stable.
Despite a long journey, the former wildlife biologist doesn’t live from MRI to MRI or even define herself as a patient.
Since her diagnosis, she and husband Matt have scaled the mighty heights of Mount Whitney, hiked the wild trails of the Pacific Crest Trail and camped in Marble Mountain Wilderness.
Faith in God is her salvation, she says, and the great outdoors gives her strength and inspiration.
“As brain tumor survivors say, ‘KOKO.’” [Keep on keeping on]
UCSF is transforming its Parnassus Heights campus so that patients like Cheryl can continue to benefit from the convergence of world-class research, education, and patient care.
Learn about the vision for a new campus