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Patient shares gratitude for his VCU Massey Cancer Center care team

Family Nurse Practitioner Lauren Story shows patient Jeff Eastman the results of an MRI. Image shared by Jeff Eastman Family nurse practitioner Lauren Story, FNP, shares patient Jeff Eastman the results of an MRI. (Jeff Eastman)

By Annie Harris


Jeff Eastman has much to be thankful for. This Thanksgiving, Eastman, the university planner at Virginia Commonwealth University, is sending a message of gratitude to his care team at VCU Massey Cancer Center.


In June, Eastman completed a year of adjuvant therapy after receiving surgery, radiation and chemotherapy treatment for a brain tumor that changed his life in a matter of hours. Eastman’s disease has remained stable since his diagnosis.


In a letter to Robert A. Winn, M.D., director and Lipman Chair in Oncology at Massey, Eastman wrote, “As I reflect on what I have gone through I feel compelled to tell you what wonderful care I received through VCU Health, at every level.”


In February 2021, Eastman was putting together furniture with his son when he suddenly had trouble reading the directions and found himself struggling to speak. His wife took him to an emergency room where tests revealed a growth on the left temporal lobe of his brain. Just two days later, Eastman underwent surgery to remove a glioblastoma multiforme, an aggressive tumor arising in the brain’s glial cells.



“These folks guided me through a truly terrifying time
in my life. I can’t thank them 
for being by my side through all of it.”

- Jeff Eastman, VCU Massey Cancer Center patient


Not long after the surgery, he moved his care to Massey under Mark Malkin, M.D., the former chair of Massey’s division of neuro-oncology, who Eastman called “a blessing from the moment we met him.”


Malkin, along with Lauren Story, FNP, a family nurse practitioner with the neuro-oncology program at Massey, showed Eastman kindness and translated complex medical information into something understandable for a layperson. Eastman says Story “became an incredible advocate for me as a patient.”


After the initial intensive treatment of daily radiation and chemotherapy, he transitioned to a cycle of five days of chemo every month for a year. Eastman expressed thanks to two Massey radiation oncologists: Timothy Harris, M.D., Ph.D., who met with him weekly and developed the plan for his radiation, and Todd Adams, M.D., who oversaw Eastman’s move to the Stoney Point location as well as his treatment through his last week of radiation.


VCU Massey Cancer Center patient Jeff Eastman with Todd Adams, M.D. on his final day of radiation. Image shared by Jeff Eastman.


VCU Massey Cancer Center patient Jeff Eastman with Todd Adams, M.D., on his final day of radiation. (Jeff Eastman) 


Not surprisingly, the treatment took as much of an emotional toll on Eastman as a physical one. Malkin introduced him to Massey neuropsychologist Ashlee Loughan, Ph.D., who “changed the way we live,” Eastman wrote. Loughan encouraged the Eastman family to “live in the now,” by taking trips, celebrating milestones and making memories. Additionally, Loughan conducts periodic cognitive assessments to monitor any changes in Eastman’s brain function, specifically in relation to his communication skills, since the tumor was in his brain’s language center.


Eastman’s list of appreciation went on to include respiratory therapist Kisha Booker, RRT, “who delivered monthly medicine to me to make sure I didn’t get pneumonia during treatment and was another ray of light. Warm and welcoming, she was someone that I looked forward to seeing every month.”


Eastman also credits fellow glioblastoma patients for helping him get through a difficult time – something he’s now paying forward in support he gives to people who have since received the same diagnosis.


“I’m thankful to be there for other folks,” Eastman said. “I wouldn’t want anyone else to have to face this, but if I can provide the same sort of support that I got early on, if that changes the way someone enters into the treatment, I’m happy to do it.”


In his letter of thanks, Eastman wrote in closing, “These folks guided me through a truly terrifying time in my life. I can’t thank them enough for being by my side through all of it, and wanted to make sure that you knew what wonderful caretakers you have on your teams.”

This story was originally published by the VCU Massey Cancer Center News Center.