Where to begin with this post?!
The age old saying “one step forward, two steps back” definitely applies to Mum this week, so lets start on a high note – the step forward.
As mentioned in the previous post, Mum was scheduled to receive her first IV immunotherapy dose this week. Leading up to this day, Mum had been experiencing regular migraines, insomnia, increased pain in her right forearm, and sporadic numbness in her right foot – all points she took with her on treatment day, which began with an appointment with her oncologist. To be on the safe side, before her immunotherapy treatment that afternoon, Mum was sent for another CT of the brain to investigate these awesome new symptoms – more on these results later.
The first dose of treatment went relatively smoothly, with Mum and her sister Kerri selfie-sticking their way through the experience. Mum has now been commenced on a mixture of two different immunotherapy infusion drugs given one after the other with a saline flush in between. All up, the treatment takes roughly 90 minutes. The names of the infusions are Opdivo (Nivolumab) and Yervoy (Ipilimumab), together sounding like the latest soprano boy band to come out of Spain. Mum was also commenced on regular daily Dexamethasone (steroid medication) to help with any potential side effects from the infusion, and sent home to rest.
Once home, Mum received a follow up phone call from her oncologist with results of the CT scan from earlier in the day. The findings were not good. Mum’s existing 3 tumours on the right side of her brain had grown considerably, with multiple new metastasis (tumours) now present. As can be seen in the image at the end of this post, the largest is located at the base of the brain, (left occipital, for the nurses reading – image is flipped) measuring in at 14 x 16 mm in diameter. This definitely explains the recent deluge of symptoms Mum had been experiencing.
So what now? To avoid beating around the bush, as Mum’s oncologist put it, this isn’t an ideal development, and as a result treatment is going to be stepped up with everything available now being thrown at it. Radiation therapy is also now back on the table as a result of the tumours in the brain growing and spreading so rapidly. Below is Mum’s schedule for next week:
24/4 – Blood Tests: FBC (full blood count), UEC (Urea, Electrolytes & Creatinine), LFT (Liver Function Test) and Troponin levels (heart/cardiac test).
26/4 – Appointment with oncologist to discuss blood results
27/4 – MRI at 08.30, followed by an appointment at 11.45 to see the radiotherapist to discuss stereostatic radiotherapy (I’ll explain what this is below).
Plus recurrent blood tests every Monday thereafter.
It’s going to be a busy week, but on the plus side, it feels like Mum’s oncology team is finally getting serious and are now doing everything they possibly can for her. Mum, in typical Pam style, is being incredibly strong and taking it all in her stride. The headaches seem to have somewhat settled for now and the numbness and arm pain have subsided – fingers crossed it stays that way!
I’ll let you all know how everything goes next week – I’m sure there is going to be a lot to fill you in on!
Stereotactic Radiotherapy (SRT) is a specialised type of radiotherapy that can be used to treat tumours located in the brain. A CT is usually performed to pinpoint exactly where in the brain the tumours are located. SRT then uses these scans and specialist equipment to direct thin beams of radiation very precisely at the pinpointed tumour sites. The tumours receive a high dose of radiation, while surrounding healthy tissue receives a low dose.
Stereostatic Radiotherapy usually causes fewer side effects than standard radiotherapy. These may include temporary swelling of the area being treated, soreness, tiredness, nausea, itchy skin and hair loss.