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Kimberly “April” Parlett and Bobby Parlett both have upbeat personalities with a sense of humor that could make anyone smile, despite battling their own health scares in the past.
Valentine’s Day is a special time of the year that most couples look forward to celebrating with wine and chocolates. But this year was extra sweet for the Parletts— they celebrated 16 years since getting engaged on the actual holiday, and it’s the first time doing so since being cancer-free.
April, who was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018, remembers feeling a lump the day before having her annual mammogram. After all imaging scans were done, April was told that the cancer had already advanced to stage IV.
“Everything kind of escalated from there,” said April, having later endured six rounds of chemotherapy. “The cancer had spread to my lymph nodes, bones, lungs and all the other typical areas.”
Amid this worst-case scenario, Bobby was in no rush to get a routine checkup even though April, and his relatives, insisted that he did. He felt that April’s health was more important than concentrating on his own.
In reality, Bobby feared going to the doctor because he was worried about the unknown.
“I told my husband that one of us is going to have to live long enough to raise our child, and that he needed to start taking better care of himself,” April said. “I’m the proactive one, who gets a mammogram every year, and look what happens!”
The good news is Bobby had a change of heart and said he “realized that doctors are there to help make your life better, and more complete.” So, he scheduled appointments with a local family doctor and urologist.
Unfortunately, Bobby was diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure and prostate cancer. After a couple months of pretreatment, he had to receive nearly 40 sessions of radiation before going into remission. “I was a walking death trap,” Bobby said. “At some point, your fear is that I might be sick but don’t want to know. The truth is you want to know as soon as you can.”
April, with whom Bobby shares a teenage son, jokingly credited her breasts for saving his life. “We both have a sense of humor, thank the Lord,” she said.
But it was no laughing matter when April’s breast cancer returned with a vengeance in May 2021. What she mistook for a sinus infection turned out to be multiple lesions in her brain.
Luckily, Bryan Ego-Osuala, MD, an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist; also known as an ENT) based in Waldorf who currently serves as the director of MedStar Shah Medical Group’s Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery Division, knew something wasn’t right and took matters into his own hands.
Dr. Ego-Osuala asked questions about April’s medical history and was able to rule out her alleged sinusitis with a CAT scan, which ended up saving her life.
“The brain tumor would have killed her, absolutely, had we not caught it ahead of time. I ordered the CAT scan more so to prove to April that she didn’t have sinusitis,” Dr. Ego-Osuala said. “That’s why it’s so important for any clinician to ask the proper questions because a lot of times, you will get the right answer. I believe that 80 to 85 percent of a diagnosis can be made by simply talking to the patient. Imaging studies are just a bonus for confirmation.”
April was then referred to the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, where her husband’s prostate cancer had been treated with intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) under the watchful eye of Andrew Satinsky, MD, clinical director of Radiation Oncology. April, on the other hand, would be treated with a modern radiosurgical system called ZAP-X® to remove smaller tumors from her brain following a separate neurosurgery performed at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital.
The goal in April’s case, according to Dr. Satinsky, was not to cure her breast cancer because it was already in stage IV. It was about “getting control over something serious,” he said.
“Radiation can be aimed in a very precise way to one specific part of the brain,” Dr. Satinsky said. “It’s kind of like a surgical strike on the tumors themselves.”
Since having her procedure eight months ago, Dr. Satinksy confirmed that the most recent set of diagnostic imaging tests done on April have shown “everything was stable.”
“A positive attitude goes a long way,” said April, who is still receiving infusion therapy. “With modern medicine, they can fix quite a bit of things now. The ZAP-X® machine is an example of that.”
For Dr. Satinsky, the Parletts’ positive outlook on life is enough to inspire the faint of heart.
“What I’ve found over the many years of doing this is there are a number of different ways one can leave an encounter, feeling hopeful about their treatment plan,” Dr. Satinsky said. “We were excited to be able to offer a treatment where we could remove each individual remaining tumor, as well as the area where the larger tumor had been removed from, without doing damage to surrounding tissue.”
Thanks to MedStar Health’s multidisciplinary approach to care, both April and Bobby are now in remission and have rekindled their love with newfound freedom.
April and Bobby are especially grateful for the outcry of support which has restored their faith in mankind. Family and friends have even stepped-up last summer to help run the Parletts’ swimming pool retail store, organize a fundraiser as well as make daily meal deliveries while they were recovering.
“We want to go on family trips. We want to build memories and all of those things. But without getting a diagnosis and figuring out what you need to do, the likelihood of that happening is diminished dramatically,” Bobby said. “Go out and get a routine checkup annually to make sure all of your checks and balances are in reasonable shape. Now more than ever, we’ve learned to listen to our body which saved our lives.”