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Moments: Ringing in Andy's last day of radiation therapy

An inspiring video shows Andy Ford celebrating the end of radiation therapy with a tribute to his University of Minnesota Health care team.
Patient and videographer Andy Ford, diagnosed with a brain tumor in March, celebrated the end of radiation with a video tribute to his care team.
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On his way out of our hospital, Andy Ford rang a bell—a chime celebrating an important milestone in his recovery.

Ford's journey started on Feb. 23, when the 30-year-old Lauderdale man had a seizure. Fortunately, his fiancee and former neuro-ICU nurse, Stephanie Walsh, knew what to do.

Walsh got Ford to the Emergency Department at University of Minnesota Medical Center as quickly as possible. After undergoing a battery of tests and a biopsy, he was diagnosed with a grade 3 brain tumor.

Ford says that the past three-and-a-half months have been a journey, with brain surgery followed by chemotherapy and radiation.

"I am so lucky," he said. "This was a primary brain tumor, so the cancer hadn't spread to my brain; it started out there. It was also on the right side of my brain, so I didn't lose language skills. They removed what they could and put me on chemotherapy and radiation to kill the remaining cancerous cells they couldn't get through surgery."

"About five minutes before we left for my last session, it occurred to me that I wanted to do something to capture the moment so my friends and family could share the moment with me. I know they would have liked to be there to celebrate." 

As luck would have it, Walsh started working at University of Minnesota Medical Center in March when Ford was in the hospital recovering from surgery. "Seeing the care that Andy received reinforced my desire to work at the medical center," she said. "I was going through my orientation and it was nice to know that he was just a couple floors away."

"It was great that to have Stephanie working in the same hospital I was being treated in," Ford said. "I felt like I had an ambassador taking care of me, making sure I had the right care."

Why make a video?

"About five minutes before we left for my last session, it occurred to me that I wanted to do something to capture the moment so my friends and family could share the moment with me," Ford said. "I know they would have liked to be there to celebrate. Video is such a shareable medium, and I wanted to apply my experience in video production."

"I think this is the most genuine thing I’ve ever done—all the raw emotion came out." 

So he did, sharing the joy of the simplest act of ringing a bell affixed in the radiation treatment waiting room—a signal of the completion of his 30 days of radiation and 42 consecutive days of chemotherapy.

"I think this is the most genuine thing I've ever done—all the raw emotion came out," Ford said. "The ‘Special Thanks’ at the end—I remember those names very distinctly. It made a big impact, knowing I was being watched over every day. Everyone in radiology is so friendly and positive. It helped my mind and heart be in the right place, helped frame my mentality going forward."

"I wanted to be extra nice to my caregivers to make sure they had as good an experience with me as I had with them," he added "They were great."

Ford has a follow-up MRI at the end of the month, where he'll get his first look at how successful the treatment has been and form a plan for his chemotherapy moving forward. "I know it is a bit early to tell, but I'm feeling good about it," he said.

Update 11/16/2016: Since ringing the bell, Ford has continued to celebrate the success of his treatment at University of Minnesota Medical Center. He has undergone 10 follow-up MRI scans of his brain, and no new tumor growth has been found. He and Stephanie bought their first house in 2015, and they are expecting their first child in December.

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