Living Life After a Shocking Diagnosis
- Richard Walker, a father of two from outside Birmingham, England woke up with symptoms he described as typical “hangover” aftermath. It wound up being glioblastoma, a highly aggressive brain tumor.
- Richard just finished six weeks of intensive radiotherapy treatment and is now dedicating his time fundraising for others affected by this disease.
- Although Richard’s doctors were unable to remove any part of his tumor because of where it is situated on the optic nerve, that is not always the case for other patients.
“I woke up feeling like I had been ‘on the pop’—which I hadn’t,” Richard described to Birmingham Live. I could see red and green lights in the corner of my right eye and remember a friend telling me about something similar they experienced whilst they were having a stroke.” He thought the same was happening to him.Read More
He and his wife Lucy, 44, have two children together, Max, 8, and Evie, 16.
Living With Cancer
The family of four is now managing the best they can, despite the devastating diagnosis.
“Together, Lucy and I have told the kids over time,” he said, and for their youngest, “we bought him a book which is called ‘someone I love has cancer’ and that’s been a great tool to help him understand what’s happening to me.”
His daughter aspires to be a doctor. “[She] has a nurturing personality and just wants to help me.”
Richard just finished six weeks of intensive radiotherapy treatment and is now dedicating his time fundraising for others affected by this disease. He is also openly sharing his journey on Instagram to raise awareness. While it is understandable for advanced stage cancer patients—or anyone fighting the disease—to have those “why me” moments, Richard is doing his best to sing a different tune.
“I feel so lucky when I wake up in the morning,” he said. “I decided to document my brain tumor journey on Instagram as a way of offloading my thoughts and as a place for people to see for themselves. Lots of people ask how I am and this was an easy way of answering.”
Richard—whose symptoms started in September 2021 with an increasingly debilitating pain in the back of his head— starts campaigning on the local bank circuit on Friday. His sister-in-law, who is a banker, organized the fundraiser in his honor.
The standard of care treatment for a GBM patient usually consists of a surgical resection followed by radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
Sadly, very few people being treated for glioblastoma typically live longer than two years. But a new, novel treatment for the disease is extending life for some people with this disease.
“There’s been a very exciting development of tumor treating fields, which are electrical fields that have been applied to the brain” says Dr. Suriya Jeyapalan, a neurologist at Tufts Medical Center. In practice, “they’re basically these adhesive pads that connect to a device … and it generates this alternating electrical current.”
After getting diagnosed with glioblastoma, a neurosurgeon will try to take out as much of the tumor as possible without causing any damage to critical brain structures.
Treatment for Glioblastoma
Although Richard’s doctors were unable to remove any part of Richard’s tumor because of where it is situated on the optic nerve, that is not always the case for other patients.
Depending on the location of a patient’s tumor, sometimes the surgeon can remove the entire tumor. In contrast, in other situations, the surgeon can only remove a portion of the cancer. The goal, in both cases, is to remove the tumor in the safest way. After surgery, patients get time to heal and regain their strength, usually during four to six weeks of recovery.
The next step is to start radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Most patients who need radiation therapy will have external beam radiation therapy, which is usually given every day (Monday – Friday) for six weeks, for a total of 30 treatments.
Chemotherapy consists of a drug called temozolomide (also called Temodar) that is given daily with radiation. Unlike other chemotherapies, Temodar is a pill that is taken daily and does not require an IV or port placement. After radiation, patients will get additional chemotherapy using Temodar for six months or more, depending on how they tolerate the medication.
Some physicians may also use a device called Optune, which goes on a patient’s head. Several electrodes are attached to the patient’s scalp to deliver an alternating electrical current.
While patients do not feel this current, the Optune device improved survival and slowed tumor growth in studies. However, the drug is not for everyone. Patients who use Optune will need to shave their heads and wear the device for most of the day, so it’s essential to discuss with your doctor whether or not it’s a good fit for you.