Michelle Cooke

Treatment Center: Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC).

Number of Treatments: 28

In November of 2016, Michelle Cooke had LASIK surgery. As she was recovering, she developed painful, “insane” headaches and “blurred vision.”  She visited her doctor and was informed that these symptoms were from the eye surgery and were part of adjusting to her new vision. She was told multiple times to schedule a follow up with the LASIK doctor but no apparent issues were found at subsequent appointments. 

In the weeks following, her headaches persisted and her vision worsened.  A close friend of hers suggested that Michelle visit an ophthalmologist in Annapolis, Maryland.  At this exam, Dr. Maria Scott immediately recommended an MRI.  She stated she was rather confident Michelle had a brain tumor or an aneurysm.   The doctor scheduled the MRI for the same day. Michelle was beyond scared. She went directly to the MRI center and, “by the time the garage door opened at my home back in Severn Maryland, the doctor called to tell me I have a brain tumor.”  In a matter of a seconds, Michelle’s world “flipped.”  She was told to see Neuro-Ophthalmology Specialist, Dr. Shalom E. Kelman.    She was also able to schedule an appointment with Johns Hopkins’ radiation oncology the next day.   

At Hopkins she learned the tumor resided on her optic nerve and it was inoperable. She needed radiation treatment to shrink the active tumor.  Without treatment, she would continue to lose her vision and was told the loss was irreversible.   She left thinking about how life had changed so quickly.  She needed to have radiation and she considered scheduling treatments at Johns Hopkins.

As Michelle discussed treatments with her sister, Kristen, a nurse anesthetist at Sinai Hospital, it was recommended that she visit the Maryland Proton Treatment Center (MPTC).  Here she would receive more targeted radiation to the tumor site.  Since the radiation is being delivered to her brain, Michelle was very concerned about the ‘scatter’ of radiation that traditional radiation would deliver to the healthy brain cells.    Additionally, Michelle’s goal was to preserve the vision she currently had not lost. She scheduled a visit to the Maryland Proton Treatment Center.


At her consultation with Robert Malyapa, MD, PHD at MPTC, Michelle remembered, “The moment I walked in the door at MPTC I felt comfortable.  The people were amazing and so compassionate! I felt I was walking into a hotel.  It was the most pleasant environment for treatment. Everyone was so kind.”  Dr. Malyapa reviewed Michelle’s treatment plan and discussed how proton radiation is a more targeted therapy.  After much debate over the pros and cons of traditional vs. proton therapy, Michelle knew that proton therapy was the right treatment choice for her.  

Michelle received 28 treatments and explained that after a few treatments, she felt comfortable with her treatment mask. She recalls that it was so much scarier anticipating how the mask would feel.  Like other patients, she quickly got used to the mask, sounds, and lights and learned how to relax during treatment. Her treatments were painless and simple. 

A year post radiation, Michelle received what seemed to her and her doctor to be a miracle. “I was not expected to regain my eyesight. My radiation oncologist set very clear expectations that any vision loss going into radiation would never be regained.   The mission was to prevent further loss of eye sight.”  However, tests showed that nearly all of Michelle’s vision was regained! Her radiation oncologist said, “This was something higher than the power of medicine.”

Almost two years after treatment, Michelle is enjoying life with her husband, AJ, and two lovely daughters Ashlynn, 8, Madelynn,6, and new puppy, Kirby!