Lori Hoppock has a passion for all things music. From singing, teaching elementary school music and piano lessons, to playing keyboard in her church praise band and writing and recording an original Christmas album with her husband and three children, she enjoys sharing her passion with others.
But seven years ago, Lori embarked on a health challenge journey that temporarily silenced her music. It has been a difficult road with many detours, including a stop at Via Christi Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Therapy where she received some restorative healing.
A problem emerges
In January 2007, the active musician, mother and volunteer was diagnosed with a benign but aggressive tumor that originated in her salivary glands. The tumor was removed; however, a cluster of tumors returned in 2009.
Because they could become cancerous at any time, and after several interventional treatments and surgeries, Lori underwent an aggressive course of radiation treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston in January 2013.
“We thought we were good, but the hard times were just beginning,” Lori says, of the halted recurring tumors and an emerging challenge.
A new diagnosis
In fall 2013, while on a trip with her husband Kevin, a family medicine physician for Via Christi Clinic, Lori developed an open wound on her right cheek where she’d had radiation treatment. While radiation therapy kills tumor cells, healthy cells also sustain damage. Generally these cells repair themselves but occasionally, delayed radiation damage (necrosis) occurs months later.
Lori’s compromised tissue was unable to heal and another major surgery was needed. But first, to make her tissue and bone as healthy as possible prior to surgery, Lori underwent hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT) at Via Christi Wound Healing and Hyperbaric Therapy.
During HBOT, patients breathe 100 percent oxygen in a pressurized chamber that increases oxygen to the wound and promotes healing. For seven weeks, Lori spent two hours a day, five days a week, relaxing in the transparent chamber at the wound center.
“They called me Sleeping Beauty,” she jokes.
Throughout the process, wound care staff worked closely with Lori’s surgical team and primary care physician on a treatment plan to preserve and prepare her damaged skin and bone for optimum surgical results. Although Lori could not visually see healing, the HBOT was gradually improving the health of her cells.
“The hyperbaric treatments made me feel like I was doing something to help build me up and make me healthy,” Lori says, “which was emotionally beneficial.”
After her surgery and skin grafting at MD Anderson in January, Lori returned to the wound center and received 10 additional HBOT treatments to ensure continued healing.
Lori was the wound center’s first HBOT patient when it opened its doors in December 2013. “She was like our first-born child,” says Marilee McBoyle, MD, medical director. “We would all hover over her.”
“Dr. McBoyle and the staff were amazing,” Lori says, adding that they were always attentive, empathetic and professional.
A positive perspective
Today, Lori has reason to sing again — not only songs but also praises for the gift of life. Despite some hearing loss in her right ear, and facial paralysis due to the surgeries and nerve damage, she and her family remain positive, praising God that her vocal chords have not been affected.
The last few years have been a physical and emotional roller coaster for the family, but Lori says their spiritual journey has been an unwavering ascent. They have grown even closer. They feel blessed with a wealth of friends and supporters on virtually every continent and are grateful for the excellent medical care Lori has received.
They celebrate small victories, including Lori’s return as the accompanist at Trinity Academy, and, says Kevin, “share the hope of spoiling grandchildren together some day.”
“Lori was a light for us,” says Dr. McBoyle. “An example to trust in the Lord when days are easy and on days of profound disappointment.”
Lori shares her challenges through an inspirational blog (caringbridge.org/visit/lorihoppock). She believes her and Kevin’s prominence in the community provides a platform to show people that everyone struggles.
“I’m very honest. I have bad days,” she says. “But to go through all of this and still feel so blessed is amazing.”