“A miracle” is what Eve Cottier calls it.
A cancerous brain tumor which was inoperable, was deciding life for her husband Jim. But a year after his diagnosis, he says is gone.
An MRI on Oct. 16 showed no tumor after he underwent aggressive chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. Radiation was used when the tumor recurred, and all signs point to it being wiped out.
Even the tumor’s root in the top of Jim’s brain stem in the middle of his head is gone.
“I’m thrilled, thrilled, thrilled, thrilled,” Eve Cottier said Wednesday morning at Angelo’s Pizza, the Ironwood restaurant they opened in 1980 with Jim’s father, Dick Cottier.
To celebrate the Cottiers’ good news, a regular coffee group enjoyed an apple pie baked by Dennis Beals’ wife, Susan, at mid-morning.
“I’m ecstatic, grateful,” Eve continued. “It’s a miracle.”
The prayers from the community, Jim’s positive attitude, and the miracle of medical science all played a role in Jim’s recovery says Eve.
When Jim went to Grand View Hospital suffering from weakness and coordination problems, the walnut-sized brain tumor was discovered Oct. 9, 2006.
He was given a diagnosis of anaplastic large cell lymphoma type t cell — cancer — after a needle biopsy was performed later that month.
At St. Mary’s Clinic Duluth, doctors tried to shrink the tumor by giving Jim six courses of chemotherapy over 90 days.
To get a stem cell transplant, the Cottiers went to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota in early February of this year.
Jim’s stem cells were frozen after being removed from his blood. His cancer was then killed off by administering an extremely high dose of chemotherapy.
“That was tough,” Eve Cottier said.
He couldn’t eat without vomiting. He was incredibly weak.
His stem cells began the work of rebuilding his immune system when they were transfused back into his body on February 22nd.
Mid-March marked his return home.
“All was well,” Eve Cottier said, when the family went back to Mayo for the 100-day checkup in May 29th.
They thought it was going to be over, but their happiness was short lived.
“Two weeks later, he started slipping very badly,” she said.
“The tumor came back with a vengeance,” Eve Cottier said, referring to an MRI performed in Duluth in June 21st.
It only took 3 weeks for the tumor to become four to five times bigger.
Jim Cottier began a 25-day course of radiation at Duluth.
The cost of fuel and travel distance made a daily commute impractical despite the fact the treatment only took minutes.
They drove home to Ironwood on Friday after the last treatment of the week following a Monday through Thursday stay at a downtown Best Western near the hospital.
July 26th marked the final radiation treatment, and subsequent MRI performed less than 30 days later showed a thumbnail sized tumor remaining despite the tumors shrinking.
“The oncologist told us to go home and enjoy whatever time we had left,” Eve Cottier said.
The radiation and the stem cell transplant had not worked according to the doctor.
However, the radiologist still kept his fingers crossed.
Even after the last treatment, radiation remains effective for six to eight weeks stated the radiologist.
After another MRI was performed in October 18th, the results revealed that the tumor had disappeared.
“It is gone. The root is gone,” Jim Cottier said.
“To me, it’s a miracle. I think it’s all the prayers,” Eve Cottier said.
A raffle benefit and silent auction was held, as well as a spaghetti dinner was held in late January before the family took another trip to Mayo.
Prayers continued to come Jim’s way from the local community.
“We are extremely grateful to the community for their support,” Eve Cottier said. “We think that all of their prayers have given us a miracle.”
She says her husband is a fighter.
“Attitude is a big thing. If you let it beat you, you will be beat,” she said.
Jim Cottier understates the obvious, “it was not a pleasant year,” as he slowly regains his strength.
He says he appreciates the days he gets up feeling good. There are about as many good days as bad days now.
And even the bad days are better than they used to be.
“I appreciate that I’m going to go on,” he said.