My brain tumour treatment
David Fryer is 47. When he was 34 he had a fit in the middle of the night. A scan showed that he had ‘something’ in his head – perhaps a tumour maybe something else. The lump was monitored using scans for the next 7 years. Then in 2005 after David suffered from dizziness and worsening headaches he was admitted to hospital where a scan showed the lump had haemorrhaged. This is his story.
A brain tumour diagnosed
After the scan showed the lump had haemorrhaged I was immediately admitted for surgery. My surgeon estimated that he managed to remove some 95% of what turned out to be a type of brain tumour called a high grade (grade 4) oligodendroglioma.
Almost immediately I started 6 weeks of radiotherapy and then had a course of temozolomide chemotherapy as my cancer specialist favoured a ‘belt and braces’ approach. I came through all this treatment relatively unscathed. I was still working and managed to fit in all my treatment around work. On completion of this treatment, the consultants were happy with how things were going, although I was warned to expect the tumour to return within 2 to 3 years. I was then regularly monitored with further MRI scans.
In October 2008 a scan showed that the tumour was back and I was admitted for further surgery. After a biopsy, the doctors decided to try a type of chemotherapy called Gliadel wafers. This meant putting about 8 gel discs, each the size of a 50p piece, around the site of the tumour.
I don’t remember having any specific side effects after this treatment, but it coincided with a return of severe headaches and the decision to put me on steroids. I’d had steroids before. They had always had a remarkable effect on relieving my symptoms. But this time, I felt really lousy. I was constantly tired, my sleep was disturbed, my weight shot up, but at the same time my muscles wasted due to lack of activity. I found the 6 months I was on steroids very hard and it was a real relief when I finally managed to get weaned off them. It didn’t take me long to lose the weight I had put on plus some more. I lost 3 stone in total!
I then started PCV chemotherapy in June 2009, which finished in March 2010. This felt like ‘proper’ chemotherapy and I had far more side effects than with any of my previous treatment. I had quite a few different side effects, but they were generally minor in the grand scheme of things. However, as I now realise, my bone marrow was hit hard. As a result, it is taking a lot longer to get back my strength and general health.
My life now
I am now living with the impact of this chemo and then 'coming out the other end'. Throughout my treatment I have tried to be positive and optimistic. I know that many of the treatments I have had would not have been available way back in 1998 when I had my fit. I know how lucky I have been.
Every day I wake up and try to assess my body and decide what I will be able to do. I have always been relatively fit but the treatment has taken its toll. So now I am learning to play Bridge. I am OK speaking to people one to one, but I find that my conversation suffers in large groups. At times I struggle to find the right words thanks to the impact on my memory. So Bridge suits. It also helps my memory and concentration.
One of my biggest bugbears is with the DVLA. I have scans every 3 months, and although my doctors all think I am fit to drive the DVLA take up to 3 months to process any application by which time they want to wait for the results of my next scan! I go to a local support group for people with brain tumours and complaining about the DVLA is one of the main topics of conversation.
My latest scan has shown that there is still some tumour there, but the doctors have given me the summer off and my wife, daughters and I are off to Sardinia, to hopefully see some sun. In September the doctors will re-scan and then I’ll probably have more radiotherapy treatment.
I have the same type of brain tumour as Seve Ballesteros had. I have always been a keen golfer and his death hit me hard. But to help I have been able to support the work Cancer Research UK is doing in collaboration with the Seve Ballesteros Foundation improving radiotherapy for brain tumours.
- About 1 in 20 brain tumours (5%) is an oligodendroglioma, which develop from cells called oligodendrocytes
- They are most common in adults but can occur in children too
- Surgery is the main treatment for oligodendrogliomas but radiotherapy and chemotherapy are also used
On CancerHelp UK there is detailed information about
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