... in my brain actually. My very own brain tumour

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The pathology

After the long, agonising wait, we visited the neurosurgeon this morning to find out exactly what the nature of the tumour is at a cellular level. It is important to have this information because it gives a better idea of the prognosis and further treatment options. As in the past, my wonderful surgeon told me everything I wanted to know. It was all done professionally and with charming humanity. He showed us all the statistics in a nice little book and, of course, read out the detailed pathology report. He explained that further pathology analysis will be done before treatment in order to refine the knowledge of its likelihood to respond to different regimes of treatment. I am in very good hands.

My tumour has been found to be an anaplastic astrocytoma of at least grade 3 severity (1 is the lowest level and 4 is the highest) It is a tumour of the connective tissue of the brain, not a tumour of the nerve cells. It is a primary tumour, meaning that it has originated in my brain and not spread there from somewhere else. The adjective “anaplastic” refers to the characteristics of its growth. It is clearly a fast growing, malignant tumour, not a benign one. While this is not exactly good news, it could be a lot worse. Originally he thought it was a glioma multiforme which is a ghastly thing with a prognosis of 3 to 9 months. Mine is much better. The prognosis is always a difficult thing to come to terms with, because it is expressed in average months. In other words, it is a way of trying to understand it statistically and will always turn out to be wrong anyway. The prognosis for my tumour, with treatment is an average of 24 to 36 months. It might sound ridiculous, but this has given me a feeling close to elation. Imagine knowing that you can reasonably expect to live a good quality of life for that long. I think it is wonderful. Joan told me that I am walking with a spring in my step. Yes, I feel lighter and happier than I have for days.

If the pathology had been that of glioblastoma multifore (the one with the terrible prognosis) one of the serious treatment options would have been to refuse treatment. However, my astrocytoma is going to be more sensitive to other treatment modalities and the better prognosis makes it really worth thinking about radiotherapy and chemotherapy, even if these are unpleasant while they happen. In other words, if I can expect to get on with my life and be around climbing mountains, going to Summer School lectures and discovering more wonders in nature in a few years time, why not hit the thing with everything we’ve got? So, it looks as if I will be around for some time to enjoy my family, my grandchildren and friends. I think it is a good idea to go for further treatment and will be getting more advice from an oncologist soon. The neurosurgeon was quick to point out that the prognosis could even be considerably better. Referring to his little book with all the latest statistics, he showed that some people even make 5 years or longer. I can do that!

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