Vanita Currin – Myeloma Patient Success Story

No backing down

A team approach heals Vanita Currin’s broken back and helps her overcome cancer

Nursing is physical work, with lifting patients, pushing and pulling beds, and walking the halls for 12-hour shifts.

Vanita Currin and her family. Vanita Currin (second from left), says “the sky’s
the limit” after surviving cancer and a collapsed
vertebra with the help of Methodist Health System.
Now she can be there for her husband, Nikolas Smith,
and keep up with her three children.

Vanita Currin (second from left), says “the sky’s the limit” after surviving cancer and a collapsed vertebra with the ?? help of Methodist Health System. Now she can be there for her husband, Nikolas Smith, and keep up with her three children.

So when 30-year-old Vanita Currin, RN, began experiencing shooting pain through her back and down her leg in winter 2014, she chalked it up to her job. Then on Feb. 6, 2014, the nurse had an unexpected role reversal.

“I became the patient,” she says.

“That night the pain was so bad I went to the emergency department at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center. I thought it was a slipped disk or a pinched nerve. Worst-case scenario I would need steroid shots.”

The worst-case scenario was worse than Vanita imagined. An MRI scan showed multiple tumors along her spine.

Repairing a broken back

Vanita, a wife and mother of three, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.

A follow-up appointment was scheduled for the following week. However, only a few days after coming home from the emergency department, the large T9 vertebra in her back completely collapsed. She was taken by ambulance to Methodist Mansfield and then transferred to Methodist Dallas Medical Center for spine surgery.

“Without surgery, Vanita could have been paralyzed,” says Richard Meyrat, MD, neurosurgeon with the Methodist Moody Brain and Spine Institute.

He performed two procedures to repair Vanita’s spine. During the first, he used a minimally invasive approach to remove the tumor-ravaged vertebra and replace it with a titanium mesh insert.

“It acts like a jack, lifting up the collapsed part of the spine to restore height and alignment,” Dr. Meyrat says.

Because the tumor was fed by a blood vessel deep inside the body, removing it caused extensive bleeding. To prevent future bleeding, Ben Newman, MD, endovascular neurosurgeon with the Institute, injected a material into the blood vessel where it was feeding the tumor. He accessed it via a tiny incision in the groin and threaded his way through the blood vessel to the tumor site.

Both Drs. Meyrat and Newman then collaborated to perform Vanita’s second surgery: implanting a steel rod and screws to support the weakened spine. Five days later, Vanita went home.

“I felt a huge relief,” Vanita says. “All the neurological back pain was gone, and my experience at Methodist Dallas was awesome.”

Overcoming cancer

Vanita’s follow-up treatment included chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. While at Methodist Dallas, Vanita was introduced to Vasu Moparty, MD, oncologist and hematologist with Texas Oncology – Methodist Cancer Center. Because Vanita responded so well to the chemotherapy he prescribed, she was able to have her bone marrow transplant in early July.

“After I came home from that, it was like ready, set, go,” she says. “I wanted to start doing what Vanita does — doing what I needed for my children, to be a wife, to be a daughter, to be everything. And I had a great support system through it all, especially from Methodist.”

Today Vanita is cancer-free and loves that she can still keep up with her children. She’s also making plans to further her nursing education.

“I knew someday I would hear that I was cancer-free, but when I finally did, it was like, ‘Wow. Now what do I do?’” Vanita says. “Then I realized, the sky’s the limit.”