Eloise "Candy" Draksler (UMMC)

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Eloise Candy Draksler

Eloise "Candy" Draksler

Eloise “Candy” Draksler is a self-described ball of energy and uses much of that energy to make children happy. After teaching music for 20 years, Draksler now works full time as a children’s entertainer – a job that requires her to be in good shape.

“I’m a healthy person, so it was odd when I was suddenly hit with nausea and dizziness,” she recalls. “I couldn’t sit upright without being sick.” After her symptoms worsened, Draksler was taken by ambulance to UM Upper Chesapeake Medical Center, where a CT scan revealed a mass on her cerebellum—the part of the brain responsible for movement and equilibrium. She immediately was transferred to University of Maryland Medical Center for further diagnosis and care. After an MRI and a biopsy, she was given a diagnosis of central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma. Soon after learning her diagnosis, Draksler and her husband met her clinical team from the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center.

A Rare Condition

With lymphoma, cancer cells develop and grow in the lymphatic system, usually causing enlarged lymph nodes.

While discussing treatment options, Young Kwok, MD, an associate professor of radiation oncology and a specialist in brain lymphoma, asked whether Draksler would consider participating in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are research studies designed to find new and better ways to prevent, detect and diagnose cancer and other diseases and treat patients. Trials help scientists learn more about cancer — how it grows, spreads, acts and responds to different therapies – and provide patients with access to promising new therapies, which may be more effective than standard treatments, before they are widely available.

A Unique Opportunity

Draksler was an ideal candidate for a clinical trial designed to treat the rare form of cancer that she had.

“Because of the rarity of this type of tumor, the trial is not available at many cancer centers. The University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center is able to offer this trial because it is a large, National Cancer Institute-designated center,” says Dr. Kwok.

The cancer research team thoroughly discussed the criteria with her and encouraged her to take the weekend to read information, discuss it with her family and write down any questions.

Although she felt confident that she would receive the highest level of care from the physicians and nurses at the University of Maryland Medical Center, Draksler feared being among the first to try this treatment. Ultimately, it was her son who persuaded her to participate.

“He said I would be a pioneer and that I could help people down the road,” she says. “I really liked the idea of that.”

A Second Chance

The three month chemotherapy and radiation regimen was strict and aggressive, but Draksler responded well to the treatment.

“It was a difficult process, but the doctors and nurses were excellent,” Draksler says. “They were always warm and positive,” and encouraged her to take an active role in her care. She asked questions, kept detailed notes and learned the names of all of the medicine she was prescribed. It made her feel that she was gaining control of her life again.

More than a year later, Draksler is cancer-free and back at work putting smiles on children’s faces. The cancerous tumor not only shrank, but it completely disappeared.

“I would tell anyone who has been asked to participate in a clinical trial to definitely consider it,” she says. “Don’t dismiss it. You get to play a role in defeating cancer and helping others, and that’s a great feeling.”

Draksler looks forward to volunteering and sharing her story with cancer patients at the Patricia D. and M. Scot Kaufman Cancer Center at Upper Chesapeake Medical Center.

The NCI Difference

The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC) is a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center, placing it in the top tier of cancer centers in the country. The NCI program helps advance scientific research into the causes and treatment of cancer to help reduce incidence levels. This designation allows UMGCC to participate in NCI-sponsored clinical trials. Most important, NCI designation at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center means Marylanders don’t have to travel out of state for world-class programs in multidisciplinary cancer research. They are available close to home.