Thursday, 23 July 2015

Game and first set to glioblastoma

It’s as if the universe has a sense of humour. Or perhaps it is an avid reader of this blog and likes to provide content. I first got a sense of this when I discovered that after 15 years of vegetarianism, the best diet for keeping cancer at bay was basically an all meat and animal fat one. It also struck me as ironic that my first hospitalisation as a fit 34 year old sports lover would be for cancer, a disease that is on the rise because of an increasingly unfit and aging population. 

I shouldn’t have been surprised then that on Friday, when thinking about how much I was looking forward to my first post-treatment MRI scan and drafting the first version of this blog post, I had my first full body seizure. I was looking forward to the scan because I have been so healthy and was hoping for confirmation of this fact in the results. I should have known better. It’s hard to know how long the seizure lasted but it must have been about three minutes. For that whole time, from when I first fell backwards, I was paralysed and it felt like someone was electrocuting me. I never lost consciousness (or wet myself, as I was asked by the docs) and had the sensation of tumbling through the air, expecting to hit my head on the bathroom tiles. It was the most frightening experience of my life, including my diagnosis and finding out about my prognosis.

I assumed the seizure meant that the tumour had returned – it must have diarised the date of my scan and decided to rear its ugly head just in time to rain on my parade. I had my post-treatment scan as planned on Monday, the results of which are now in, and indeed the tumour had lulled me in to a false sense of security - it has regrown on the left hand side of my brain (my first operation was on the right).  

It's not as bad as it first sounds. On the up-side the tumour is right near the surface of my brain so George (my surgeon) could practically scoop the little fracker out with an ice-cream scoop this time. I can also ask the surgeon to preserve more of the ice cream this time around to give me vital genetic information about my tumour that may even lead to the development of a personalised vaccine to use against it. It will be like stealing my opponents little black book that he has kept over the years full of notes on how to beat me. It is also in a relatively safe part of my brain so shouldn’t have any impact on my memory or personality (and no Nik, they haven’t worked out a way of “uploading” a personality while they are messing around in there). Perhaps the best news of all (apart from the chance now to join my scar from ear to ear) is that the original tumour site looks to be completely stable with no signs of regrowth or residual tumour. Finally it means I will be classified as a “recurrent” patient which opens up the door to many more clinical trials. 

I’m meeting with my surgeon on Tuesday and am expecting the operation to go ahead on August 5. I’m much calmer this time around because I have been through all of this before. So game and first set to glioblastoma, but I have come out refreshed at the start of the second set and secured an early break - it looks like this one is going the full distance. Final note: never joke with oncologists about the site of your next planned tumour - their sense of humour may not be as dark as yours.

On a brighter (but still tennis themed) note, Nikki and I channelled my 25% British heritage and cheered “our Andy” Murray over the line against the Frenchman Gilles Simon in the Davis Cup quarter-final on Sunday. The bunting was out in force at the historic Queen’s Club to get the Brits in to their first semi-final in 34 years. They now play the Aussies who recovered from a two love deficit against that tennis powerhouse Kazakhstan to progress to their first semi-final since returning from their extended holiday in the wilderness of world team tennis.

Andy in action at The Queen's Club

Cam in action at The Queen's Club