ABTA

Having Fun with a Terminal Disease

Karma and Martin know how to have fun despite fighting Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) for over seven years.

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Karma and Martin: advocates for life.

Just one month after his first craniotomy for GBM, Martin celebrated his 29th birthday with friends and his dear wife, Karma, in “true Texas style.” Together, the group took aim at Martin’s tumor using enlarged copies of his original MRI for target practice at a shooting range.

This dynamic couple looks at life a bit differently, and that’s part of their success. Their shared sense of humor and positive outlook are infectious—they are funny, honest and real.

“Realizing we have a limited time on this planet—that can liberate people so much from anxiety, from self-importance,” Martin says after returning from his weekly chemotherapy infusion appointment. “Setting a good attitude helps a lot.”

Martin’s team of doctors call him “the leader of the pack” because they can be aggressive in his treatment without destroying his quality of life. Martin’s ability to stay positive and uplift others while going through the toughest of treatments knows no bounds.

In 2012, Martin started experiencing debilitating headaches and after demanding a CT scan (which led to an ER trip that confirmed a mass in his brain), he was diagnosed with GBM.

Here’s a timeline of Martin’s treatment as of this writing:

2012: first craniotomy, standard of care treatment for glioblastoma, entered a Novocure Phase 3 trial for newly diagnosed patients

2013: first recurrence, second craniotomy; started infusion and oral chemotherapy for almost two years

2015: second recurrence, third craniotomy

2016: resumed infusion and oral chemotherapy; started additional chemotherapy for atypical cells found in spinal fluid (required Ommaya Reservoir implant beneath scalp)

2019: first cranioplasty (as skull bone was compromised); third recurrence, first Gamma Knife radiation procedure; resumed infusion and oral chemotherapy (in August)

That’s a lot for anyone to endure.

“He has such patience and positivity and fortitude about things,” Karma says via conference call. “He’s my hero.” Martin adds, “Was it not for her love, I would not have made it this far.”

Karma quickly clarifies, “I’m not making him say this!” We all start laughing.

I’m of a strong belief that if there’s not enough people trying new things, how are we going to beat this?

Now years in, the couple remains committed to living in the moment, while trying to plan for the future. Together, they continuously evaluate their goals to ensure they’re living their best life in spite of a GBM diagnosis. They recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon and try to make travel a priority when they can.

“We just keep on living,” Karma says. “If there’s a setback, like a recurrence or a procedure, we do our best to not let it derail our entire lives.”

The couple met in 2008 and had great plans for their future. “The sky was the limit,” Martin says. They were married just two years before Martin’s diagnosis. “At this point, I’ve known him longer with a brain tumor than without,” Karma reflects. Martin was eventually let go from his job. “For men that can be quite crushing, we view what we do as an important part of our identity. I had to take some time to accept that I’m not going to be the person I was six months ago. I found purpose in other things.” Martin volunteers at a school dedicated to students with Downs Syndrome and with a nonprofit to facilitate donations of medical machines and supplies to countries in need.

Early on, Karma and Martin connected with the American Brain Tumor Association through a local brain tumor conference in Houston. “For almost a year, we were maneuvering a GBM diagnosis without all of the available information,” said Karma. “Once I realized what the ABTA had to offer, I made it my goal to ensure that every brain tumor family I met going forward was made aware of the ABTA and their resources.”

Together, this dynamic duo remains strong advocates within the brain tumor community. Martin is also a strong advocate for science and research. “I’m of a strong belief that if there’s not enough people trying new things, how are we going to beat this?”

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