Chasing the Cure Recap, Episode 3: Hope for Healing a Chronic Headache, and a New Smile

The team examines four complex cases and look towards strengthening doctor-patient relationships

episode 103 patients

On August 22, 2019's episode, the Chasing the Cure team launched two new searches for solutions and found two patients answers. Let’s have a look at this week’s four cases featuring Sean, Quendella, Frankie and Brenda — and check in where each stand as we head into episode four.

Case File: Sean

Sean's a single father of two teen girls in Alabama who found his once-active life sent into a downward spiral. He ran his last 5K in February of 2017 and watched his days as a long-distance runner fade into the rearview as chronic fatigue consumed him. Sean eats up to 6,000 calories a day but fails to gain any weight. In fact, he's lost 70 pounds and 1.5 inches in height over the past year.

He’s desperate for answers. Without them, he’s afraid he won’t be around to care for his girls much longer.

The Chasing the Cure physician team’s immediate thought was blood cancer. They also raised concerns about Sean having a possible malabsorption issue – where the body fails to absorb nutrients from the food he consumes. The physicians agreed that the next steps were a full medical workup, including blood tests.

From the Chasing the Cure community, concerns flooded in related to Sean’s 22-year career as a pesticide technician. Could his long-term exposure to herbicide and pesticides have anything to do with his health problems?

The good news is that Sean’s lab results came back clean for blood cancer. The even better news? The Mayo Clinic took notice of Sean’s case. Sean was supposed to appear on this week’s episode live. Instead, the Chasing the Cure team went to him at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida.

Sean's currently being evaluated at the Mayo Clinic. He's had multiple labs, a bone survey to assess his bone strength and weaknesses, and is presently being evaluated by a gastrointestinal specialist. For the first time since 2017, Sean's felt hopeful – and overwhelmed with gratitude for the care, time and attention he's received from the people invested in helping him find a cure.

Case Status: IN PROGRESS – stay tuned for updates

SEAN'S case was first featured on episode three of chasing the cure

Case File: Quendella

Quendella is a social media influencer on the rise who beat cancer at the young age of 14. Now, she’s ready to share her message of hope and happiness with the world.

The only problem? The cancer treatments that saved her life stole her smile.

Quendella suffers from a condition called osteoradionecrosis. If that sounds like a mouthful, you’d be right. The chemotherapy and radiation deteriorated her saliva glands, which clean the teeth. The treatments also destroyed the blood vessels in her mouth, causing her teeth to die and begin to break and fall out. The Chasing the Cure physicians all knew these complications make Quendella a risky case for dentists. Would there be anyone who would be willing to take a chance and help her smile again?

Good news came from the office of Dr. Roland Goldstein, a renowned general and cosmetic dentist in Atlanta, Georgia. One of his dental hygienists saw Quendella’s case and brought it to Dr. Goldstein and his team of several specialists.

Now, Quendella’s on her way to Atlanta to begin her journey to a new smile, all expenses paid. Quendella was speechless. And now she definitely has a reason to smile.

Case Status: IN PROGRESS – stay tuned for updates


QUENDELLA'S STORY was first featured on episode three of chasing the cure

Case File: Brenda

Brenda from Wichita Falls, Texas, has lived with “bone-crushing” headaches for over nine years. And these headaches don’t just come and go. They stick around.

Brenda's pain is daily and relentless, ranging from a moderate to severe. Until the Chasing the Cure team took on her case, Brenda had been passed off from doctor to doctor with few answers and a lot of prescriptions. She'd exhausted nearly every avenue for care. She and her husband had spent their entire retirement savings on specialists. Brenda even sold her wedding ring to help fund her search for a solution to her pain.

The Chasing the Cure physicians knew that if they only chased Brenda’s headache, they’d likely be missing out on the cause of her pain.

Brenda met with a neurologist and headache specialist, Dr. Joey Gee, for a long consultation. At present, Gee thinks Brenda probably has a cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak somewhere along her spine. This is likely caused by the multiple spinal taps she's had to diagnose her condition. (Note: the Chasing the Cure online community also brought up this possibility.) The CSF leak could be causing low pressure in her brain, contributing to the headaches.

The neurologist is also doing a full assessment of Brenda's current medications, as they may be contributing to "rebound headaches." Brenda is optimistic that she’s finally found a doctor invested in helping her find an answer. Gee is hoping for a pain reduction in the near-term of 30-50 percent, which had Brenda astonished and grateful.

She currently has a diagnosis of Daily Persistent Headaches, a rare condition where patients can often remember the exact day their headaches began. Brenda's now on a new journey, armed with a team of headache specialists and neurologists. They're up for the challenge to help her live with less pain and find the root cause for why it began in the first place.

Case Status: IN PROGRESS – stay tuned for updates

BRENDA'S STORY was first featured on episode three of chasing the cure

Case File: Frankie

What do you do when you're 13 years old and you wake up one day almost entirely deaf in one ear? This is what happened to Frankie, an active girl who loves surfing in Encino, California.

Frankie had lost 70 percent of the hearing in her left ear. She was so afraid of further hearing loss that she stopped surfing, worried that the water could hurt the hearing she had left.

Through the Chasing the Cure team, Frankie and her parents connected with specialists who helped find an answer. Frankie’s hearing loss was caused by a virus. It turns out that viruses like the common cold are the leading cause of hearing loss in young children.

Frankie's now outfitted with a revolutionary hearing aid that connects to her phone via Bluetooth. She can hear people talk again and even stream music and phone calls right into her ear. She also went surfing again for the first time in six months.

Case Status: SOLVED

FRANKIE'S STORY was first featured on episode three of chasing the cure

Ready for Episode 4? Review the case files online here. If you have ideas that could help, be sure to weigh in via video or message on the Chasing the Cure website, or through social media on Facebook or Twitter.

E. Napoletano is an award-winning journalist and the recipient of the 2019 Illinois Women’s Press Association first-place prize for her feature on the traumatic effects of family separation policies at the border.