Until last August, Kelli McLaughlin of Carmel was living her life like normal. She was raising her four children with her husband, Ryan, volunteering for different causes, and managing two locations of her boutique shop, Clothes With a Cause, which donates proceeds to different charities throughout the year.
That month, Kelli started noticing odd, neurological symptoms and sensations in her body. She took a trip to the ER in early September and doctors didn’t find anything then. She returned later that month with her husband on their anniversary, because the sensations she was experiencing were very strong and interfering with normal tasks.
The sensations would be diagnosed as focal seizures, so brain scans were taken and they revealed Kelli had a tumor. Goodman Campbell neurosurgeon Dr. Troy Payner was assigned to Kelli’s case, and after close examination and tests, he delivered the news that she had glioblastoma, a rare brain cancer with no known cure. Ironically, Dr. Payner treated her father for several meningiomas 16 years ago.
“It took me about a month to wrap my head around my new situation. I was in complete disbelief because there were no warning signs whatsoever,” said Kelli. “But Dr. Payner and I instantly hit it off—I liked him when I met him years ago, and I like him now! My entire care team has been wonderful; they are great advocates and have helped me navigate every aspect of this process.”
Glioblastoma, a cancerous and incurable brain tumor, occurs in 3 out of 100,000 United States citizens annually. The median age of those diagnosed is 64.
Goodman Campbell treats roughly 50 cases each year. Symptoms and their severity vary with each person, but in general they include: headaches, seizures, nausea/vomiting, difficulty with speech, blurry vision, weakness on one side, confusion, or lethargy—more on signs, symptoms, and treatments here.
“Glioblastoma is the most common primary tumor to occur in the brain and it’s unfortunately cancerous. Despite tremendous research being done, we don’t have a cure. The goal of all treatments is to control the tumor as long as possible,” said Dr. Payner.
After the initial removal of the tumor, Kelli elected to start chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and wears an FDA-approved cap that helps slow tumor cells from replicating. Dr. Payner describes her as “an extremely ambitious woman who has an unflappable positive mental attitude.” Kathy Butz, a nurse on her care team, says that Kelli is very involved in her health care decisions, is open about her disease, and has a service-oriented heart.
“I don’t want to quit, I want to live. I’m committed to tackling this head-on, because I don’t see any other options,” Kelli said. “I feel like my purpose here is to make this place better than I found it, and help the next family that experiences something like this.”
All of that shows in Kelli’s drive to help her community, despite her diagnosis and side effects from treatments. Along with her support network of friends and family, she recently organized the first “Kegs ‘N Eggs 5K” fundraising event. In addition to raising awareness for this disease, they successfully collected over $50,000 to help connect families going through a similar situation to available resources and treatments.
“I am so thankful for the great turnout and beautiful weather we had for the First Annual Kelli’s Kegs N Eggs 5K! Glioblastoma research is one of the most under-funded of all cancers, and it is my goal to change this,” said Kelli. “We want to raise awareness of this horrible disease and raise funds to ensure that other families do not have to suffer this terrible blow as we had to. It can be done and I firmly believe that there is a cure on the horizon.”