Jan. 23, 2017 | When Hot Springs musician Raymond Lovelace starting having migraine headaches in 2012, he set out to find the cause.
“It raised a red flag,” he said, adding that he hadn’t experienced migraines for several years.
After visiting his doctor in Hot Springs, he decided to seek a second opinion at UAMS. Tests revealed the cause of his migraines to be a malignant tumor in his brain. Neurosurgeon J.D. Day, M.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery in the UAMS College of Medicine, along with radiation oncologist Jose Penagaricano, M.D., led Lovelace through an aggressive and highly precise procedure known as Gamma Knife to treat the brain tumor. Penagaricano is a professor in the Department of Radiation Oncology in the UAMS College of Medicine.
Contrary to its name, Gamma Knife does not include any blood loss or incision. It is a noninvasive procedure offered by the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center that delivers 192 precisely focused beams of gamma radiation to small targets inside the brain. Treatments typically last 15 minutes to one hour.
“They placed a helmet on my head and slid me inside the machine. It was quick and painless. Since then, I’ve had Gamma Knife performed another three times due to the spot continuing to pop back up,” Lovelace said. UAMS is the only facility in Arkansas to offer the Gamma Knife procedure.
Unfortunately, the treatment of his brain tumor was only the beginning for Lovelace, an accomplished singer and musician who plays saxophone, guitar, harmonica and banjo. A CT scan conducted at UAMS also revealed a tumor in his lung.
“Even though my symptoms were caused by the tumor in my brain, the cancer actually started in my lungs and spread from there,” he said.
Medical oncologist Konstantinos Arnatoutakis, M.D., took over Lovelace’s treatment as he began a chemotherapy regime at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute. After experiencing significant weight loss, Lovelace’s outlook improved when he was prescribed an immunotherapy drug named Opdivo. Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that either boosts a person’s immune system to fight cancer or marks cancer cells so it easier for the immune system to find and destroy them.
“I started on Opdivo in 2015 and continue to have treatments every two weeks. As long as it’s working, that will probably continue for the rest of my life,” he said.
As Arkansas’ only academic cancer center, the UAMS Cancer Institute offers therapies and treatment options unavailable elsewhere in Arkansas. This includes an average of about 80 clinical trials open to enrollment based on a patient’s specific needs and qualifications. Clinical trials not only provide patients with access to the most current treatments available, they also help determine new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer in the future.
In addition to his Gamma Knife procedure and chemotherapy, Lovelace also underwent a series of radiation treatments at the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center with radiation oncologist Penagaricano.
“When I started radiation therapy, they explained everything that would happen and how many treatments I would have. The entire staff was great and really eager to take care of me,” he said.
Although it’s been a long road, Lovelace is thankful for the life-extending care that has allowed him to get back to his life and music.
“If I hadn’t come to UAMS, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I was able to get all of these treatments in the same location with doctors who could talk to each other and share information about my condition. I would recommend UAMS to anyone,” he said.