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07
Nov
2017

Why Joanna is Walking 4 Brain Cancer

 Joanna and Davys en route to their honeymoon

By Joanna House 

We had been married less than year and were expecting our first child in six weeks when, in March 2016, my husband Davys was diagnosed with brain cancer. He had been having dizzy spells and feeling nauseous for a few weeks, and when regular vertigo medication didn’t help, his GP ordered an MRI Scan. It showed a tumour roughly the size of a golf ball in the cerebellum (rear centre) of the brain. He underwent surgery the following week, but they weren’t able to remove the entire tumour without risking significant damage.

The pathology results came back soon after, confirming he had stage four brain cancer. Davys’s cancer is medulloblastoma, an aggressive cancer typically seen in children under the age of ten, so it was very rare to see in a 29 year old. 

After his surgery, Davys needed rehab to learn how to walk properly again and how to complete simple tasks like making a cup of tea, or cooking his breakfast. He was due to spend four weeks in a rehab centre, but was discharged after half that time because he had made such good progress. After rehab, Davys recovered for a couple of weeks before radiotherapy began in May.

His first treatment was scheduled for the day before our daughter’s birth. We had my parents move in with us to help drive Davys to treatment at his hospital, and me to obstetrician appointments at my hospital. On the day our daughter Charlotte was born, Davys was able to have treatment in the morning, rush from his hospital to my hospital and be there in time to cut the cord. It was intense and scary, but we were both so thankful he could be there to share the moment and that we could meet baby Charlotte together.

Davys radiation treatment was intense. They radiated his entire brain and spine, as his type of cancer cells could travel down the spine in the spinal fluid. While we were expecting it, it was still a shock to see his hair fall out after the first two weeks. Davys said it was good, because he finally looked as sick as he felt and people might start to understand more of what he was going through. We kept him slathered in moisturiser and pawpaw ointment to try to stop the burn from the radiation and while it really helped, by the end he had what looked like a bad sunburn on his scalp.  

After six weeks of radiation he was given a short recovery period before starting chemo. The medical oncology team who ran his chemo treatment were much less positive than his radiation team had been. It was quite a shock to hear they didn’t have a plan in place for his type of cancer in an adult, so instead were going to try him on three different chemo drugs and hope for the best. Charlotte and I managed to be at every chemo treatment and after surgery, six weeks of radiation and 37 weeks of chemo, his treatment was finally complete.

Davys has made a remarkable recovery, given where he started after surgery and the intensity of his treatment. In October, he started back at work one day a week, which has been wonderful for his mentality. It feels like we are finally on the other side of this massive hurricane that is brain cancer and we are starting to find our ‘new normal’. 

Until his diagnosis, we, and most of our family and friends had no knowledge of brain cancer and the poor statistics around it. We now want to raise as much awareness as we can, and in turn as much funding as we can so that research can be done into better treatments and ultimately a cure. In July we hosted a black tie benefit, and just this week I ran a bake sale outside my work with all proceeds going to Cure Brain Cancer Foundation.

For us, it is just as important to spread the word and educate people, as it is to raise money. Hopefully, sometime in the future families won’t have to go through what we did, because there will be more answers, better treatments and more survivors. 

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