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Surviving over a decade with glioblastoma: Richard Bond's story

May 3, 2023 - By Dian Le

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bond was stationed in the Middle East when he collapsed and was evacuated to Europe for a brain tumor removal. Twelve years later, he is grateful to to be a glioblastoma survivor.

Photo Courtesy of Richard Bond

In August 2011 Lieutenant Colonel Richard Bond was stationed as a military advisor to the Saudi Arabian National Guard when one morning, he started feeling dizzy. He couldn't put his boots on. 

His wife, Lindsay, helped him through his morning routine. Soon after in Riyadh, doctors ordered an imaging scan that revealed a golf ball sized mass in the right frontal lobe of his skull. 

Richard was immediately medevaced to Landstuhl, Germany, a major U.S. military hub where patients are evaluated before being sent on to the United States. But while in Germany, Richard's condition declined precipitously. He never made it to Walter Reed Hospital in Bethesda, MD, for his brain surgery.

Photo courtesy of Richard Bond

Arnett Klugh, MD, a Navy neurosurgeon stationed at Landstuhl at the time, said, "I ended having to operate on him there in Landstuhl. I knew this was probably a high grade tumor and his best chance of survival was to get it all out."

At the time, Dr. Klugh was three years out of his neurosurgical training at Stanford Neurosurgery. He knew going into operating room that Richard's surgery would be challenging. Normally, Dr. Klugh would have created a 3D model of the brain that  would have allowed him to plan out the surgery and navigate the brain, similar to GPS. "Using the image guidance, we can then plan out the craniotomy and precisely localize the tumor. But that was not available in Landstuhl," he said. 

Dr. Klugh was not deterred by the setback. "I like to always say I'm a prisoner of hope. And I think a large part of that foundation for me was created at Stanford."

After a successful surgery and rehabilitation, Richard flew back home to Berkeley, CA. At Stanford Brain Tumor Center, he started his cancer treatment with neurosurgeon Gordon Li, MD–a friend and former colleague of Dr. Klugh–and neuro-oncologist Seema Nagpal, MD.

Richard's pathology results showed his tumor was a glioblastoma (GBM), an aggressive brain cancer. The disease was not new to Richard – his ex-father in law had passed away from glioblastoma. 

In the next few months, Richard endured radiation therapy and chemotherapy at Stanford Brain Tumor Center. Dr. Nagpal noted that while Richard tolerated his treatment remarkably well, he developed concerning swelling around his brain. Thanks to a switch in chemotherapy and a potent anti-swelling agent, said Dr. Nagpal, Richard was able to lengthen the time between monitoring appointments.

Richard remained stable for many years after his glioblastoma treatment concluded, but he developed secondary cancer in 2019–a sarcoma that Dr. Li removed. Under the care of sarcoma specialist Kristen Ganjoo, MD, as well as his Brain Tumor Center care team, he has remained stable. 

Throughout his extensive and long cancer treatment, often accompanied by grueling side effects, Richard treasured the relationships he developed at Stanford Medicine with his doctors, including Dr. Li and Nagpal. "They're complete experts and true professionals. They're also wonderful and caring. They're like family to us."

Dr. Seema Nagpal and the Bonds' daughter, Aya

Richard and his family made just as strong as an impression on his care team. "We have a really wonderful, supportive team of nurses and nurse coordinators who all have grown to love Richard and his family," said Dr. Nagpal. Even after members of her team have moved onto other areas at Stanford, they still reach out to ask about the Bonds, she said.

A West Point graduate with an extensive military career, Richard is no stranger to persevering through hardship. But a GBM diagnosis presented new challenges – it is an often fatal disease.

"Unfortunately, even with really aggressive care, the average survival [for glioblastoma] is still around two years," said Dr. Li. "In Mr. Bond's case, he is now 12 years out, which is truly great news."

Richard and his wife Lindsay credit the Cancer Supportive Care Program with providing much-needed support for his physical and emotional well being, particular the Healing Touch service, Yoga classes, and support groups.  

"I'm so blessed. But I also have mixed emotions. We did the Brain Tumor support group and know people like my ex father-in-law who passed away from a GBM. And of course, you see people in your support group that don't come back," said Richard.

Throughout his journey, Richard has faced his adversity with grace. He quotes an excerpt from Jerome Groopman's The Anatomy of Hope in helping him stay positive:

"Each disease is uncertain in its outcome, and within that uncertainty, we find real hope, because a tumor has not always read the textbook, and a treatment can have an unexpectedly dramatic impact. This is the great paradox of true hope: Because nothing is absolutely determined, there is not only reason to fear but also reason to hope. And so we must find ways to bridle fear and give greater rein to hope."

Photo courtesy of Richard Bond

Richard is especially grateful to have made it far enough to attend his children's milestones, including the college graduations of his two oldest sons, and seeing his youngest son become an Eagle Scout. He was also thankful to be present for his son Thomas's commissioning into the Army as a second lieutenant.

After two surgeries, and multiple rounds of radiation therapy and chemotherapy, Richard finds himself grateful to be on the other side. He is currently in remission. And aside from periodic imaging scans at Stanford Health Care in Emeryville, he is happy to be back to his life with Lindsay, raising their younger children: his 7 year old son James and 4 year old daughter Aya.

"We've gotten to know his family and we've seen his kids grow up," said Dr. Li. "That really pushes us to keep on fighting and keep on doing the best we can for patients."

No matter what lies ahead for Richard, he isn't afraid to face anything in his way.

"I’ve got the dream team on my side," said Richard. 

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