1 Of 18 Down…..

I’m not going to lie, this past week has been a hard one, not just for Sam and I being so far away, but for Mum, as her treatment took a giant leap into the ‘overwhelming zone’ yesterday.

As mentioned in my previous post, Mum now requires full blown radiation treatment to attack the tumours in her brain as well as the bone of her right upper arm, so to say this past week has been a busy one is a bit of an understatement. Let’s start from the Tuesday…..

Tuesday was the day Mum was fitted and measured for her “radiation mask”. In short, a piece of plastic mesh is melted over the face to create a made-to-fit special mask that is designed to keep the treatment area still during radiotherapy in order to make it as accurate as possible. The masks aren’t pretty, in fact they’re pretty confronting, and look like they’re straight off the set of a horror movie, but at least the lipstick Mum was clearly wearing for this fitting makes it a little less Texas Chainsaw Massacre – image below.

From here, Mum had a meeting with the orthopedic (bone) specialist, where results from her recent PET and MRI scans were discussed. Unfortunately, it appears as though the cancer has slowly degraded the bone in her arm, resulting in it becoming quite thin and fragile, and at risk of crumbling or fracturing from the amount of radiation Mum is about to receive. The plan to, hopefully, counteract this, is to surgically insert a metal rod from the rotator cuff down to the elbow, with a few cross pins along the way. This surgery is due to take place after the radiation (a bonus – radiation takes time to damage bone once in the system, so the surgery doesn’t necessarily have to take place immediately), and is scheduled for some time after June 1st.

On Wednesday, Mum met with her oncologist to discuss how the radiation therapies were going to disrupt her immunotherapy treatments. This is where we received one bought of good news, finally. Thankfully, the second infusion doesn’t need to be pushed back as previously thought, as after a discussion between the oncologist and radiation therapist, they don’t believe there is going to be an adverse effect, and are allowing the infusion to continue as scheduled. Therefore, Mum’s second immunotherapy infusion is scheduled for Wednesday the 10th of May, with the 3rd infusion taking place shortly after the radiation therapies conclude. It’s a lot, her body is going to feel it, but at least nothing is being put off, and this a very good thing.

Friday. Radiation commencement day. Mum received her first of 18 radiation treatments yesterday, and was also given her treatment schedule for the next few weeks (attached below). She’s feeling OK, apart from a bit of warmth to the area there apparently wasn’t much discomfort at all. The dexamethasone (steroids) Mum is on twice daily is hopefully going to counteract a lot of the symptoms, but there are two outcomes that can’t be avoided; 1. weight gain/bloating from the steroids, and 2. total hair loss – every woman’s worst nightmare, really!

So lets be honest here, the next few weeks are going to suck, however Mum is remaining extremely positive and is blowing me away with how she is taking each blow with continued strength and a kick-ass attitude. I know with everything she must be feeling incredibly overwhelmed, but speaking to her you wouldn’t know it; she’s a little bit awesome.

I also want to say a huge thank you to my aunts Kerri and Julie, who continue to make sure Mum is at all of her scheduled appointments and treatments, and make sure she always has visitors and company on the weekends. Sam and I, being so far away, appreciate you both more than you know, so thank you, you’re both amazing.

As always, I’ll continue to keep you all updated over the next few weeks – let’s all cross our fingers and hope that these radiation doses work and destroy the hell out of each and every one of those damn tumours!

Speak soon,

Alex

 

 

Finally, A Plan….

This past week hasn’t been an ideal one for Mum in the way of receiving results. Fortunately, we’ve finally been given a treatment plan along with a starting time, however this point has not been reached without a few set backs along the way. Before getting in to the treatment, let me tell you about the lead up to it….

The scheduled PET scan took place, and in Mum’s own words via text message, “was easy, had an injection with the special dye, slept for an hour, and then went in the machine for 20 minutes”. As mentioned in my previous post, PET scans have the ability to show up cancer “hot spots” in the body, and as expected, that it did. We already knew about the brain, lung and liver, but just to add a bit more fun to the party, the PET scan threw in a right hip “hot spot”, as well as another one in the right arm (where the original skin cancer was 13 years ago) in the bone marrow. On top of this, Mum also had a special new blood test, carried out by the Melbourne Melanoma Project, which has the ability to pick up that B-RAF mutation that I’ve mentioned a few times previously, if present. Her brain biopsy was also retested as a backup, and the samples from the skin cancer from 13 years ago were also tracked down and retested. After all of this we finally received a conclusive result. No B-RAF mutation – she is not one of the 50% that have it and are eligible, as a result, to take the daily tablet to battle it. Instead, Mum is scheduled to receive IV Immunotherapy treatment every 3 weeks at the oncology centre. The specific name of the therapy she’ll be receiving is called Keytruda (or Pembrolizumab, for all of the nurses who I know are reading this!). Treatment is officially scheduled to begin at 0900 on Tuesday the 18th of April.

So there it is, some not-so-great news, in order to receive some good news – a plan, finally. Mum herself is feeling well. She’s still getting tired very easily, but apart from that is doing great despite it all. She’s receiving all of your beautiful messages of support, including a stunning bunch of flowers from her work colleagues, which I know brightens her day, so thank you. She’s a strong one! On top of that she has just found out that my sister, Sam, and her family (including her new bubs which is due very soon!) are planning on a trip to Melbourne from Copenhagen in a few months time, which gives her something to look forward to – I wish I was going too! 🙂

That’s everything for now, will keep you all updated on how the treatment is going once she starts,

Alex

Small Update – Biopsy Failure #2

Just a very quick, small update.

As mentioned in the previous post, Mum had to undergo a second operation as a result of the brain biopsy not being viable to test for the presence of a B-RAF mutation cell. She had a quick day-unit procedure last Friday, where a tissue sample was taken from the mass in the liver. Unfortunately however, this sample has also come back as not being viable as there were not enough cancer cells present (bearing in mind the mass in the liver is a very small 3mm in diameter – so this isn’t a surprising outcome!). A 3rd biopsy procedure will most likely be required, but in the meantime, Mum is scheduled to have a PET Scan (information on this below) tomorrow morning which hopefully can provide some more insight into what’s going on inside Mum’s body!

I’ll post again as soon as we have the results from the scan and once we have a plan for the possible third biopsy procedure.

Alex

PET (Positron Emission Tomography) Scan

In short, patients who are diagnosed with cancer may have a PET Scan, which basically gives information as to the state of the body’s tissues and what they look like. PET Scans hold the ability of being able to expose cancer locations, the stage of which they’re at, whether it’s benign or malignant (lump or growing tumour), and whether it has spread to other parts of the body.

Prior to the scan, a special dye is injected called a ‘radiotracer’ which, as it flows through the body, is visible in the scans. Basically, this dye makes you and your little cancer friends light up like a Christmas tree for festive easy viewing. PET Scans are relatively easy to have, similar to a CT or MRI, and take approximately 30 minutes.