In Lifehouse News, Patient Stories

Bruce is one of the first people in Australia to undergo targeted radiation therapy to the brain using Elements BrainMets SRS treatment planning software, which helps in the delivery of fast, accurate and single-dose stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) treatment.

Bruce’s partner Danielle tells his story:

Bruce and I had been together for almost 15 years and married for 12 of those, when during a work trip to India in late 2015 Bruce became ill and lost weight.

I think we both realised something serious might be in the offing when all the tests for the usual suspects – viruses, diseases and parasites – were negative.

When Bruce continued to lose weight, our GP sent him for an ultrasound. In January 2016, a mass was detected in January 2016. The next month Bruce was diagnosed primary cancers – lung and oesophageal with some bone metastasis.

As a couple, we had been on a pretty amazing and happy journey.  We had the great fortune to live and work in London for six years, we travelled extensively through Europe and Asia and we packed a lot of laughs, love and fun experiences into our life together.

We are both outdoorsy people so when we came back home after six years of London winters, we made the most of the awesome Australian weather. We spent time enjoying Sydney’s beaches, parks and outdoor cafes and restaurants and as catching up with family in Australia and New Zealand.

We are both – Bruce in particular – positive people and confident in our ability to deal with whatever comes up.  But the actual diagnosis of cancer comes with a bit of a wrench.

Initially when just the oesophageal tumour was detected, we and the specialists were hopeful that surgery and chemotherapy would be successful.

When the PET scan showed another tumour in the lung and that the cancer had spread to the bone, curative options were taken off the table. It was a bit confronting.

From Bruce’s original two sites, the lung cancer spread to his brain twice. He would be treated with neurosurgery for the first tumour and targeted radiotherapy for the second.

Bruce was one of the first people to undergo treatment with Chris O’Brien Lifehouse’s new Elements BrainMets SRS treatment planning software, which helps in the delivery of fast, accurate and single-dose stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) treatment.

“We were very pleased to find out Bruce was eligible for the new treatment.  It meant that the treatment cycle was significantly reduced, given that 15 lesions were found on the brain. This made it easy to weave the treatment into our normal routine with minimal disruption.

I arranged my work schedule around Bruce’s treatments with the full support of my employer. As a result, I have been able to support him through his radiation treatment, chemotherapy, surgeries, hospital stays and now immunotherapy treatment.  That is extremely important for both of us.

We are lucky there have been some advances in treatment that we could benefit from, like the targeted radiotherapy Bruce had most recently. We are now trying immunotherapy.

Now that Bruce is retired he still takes an active interest in the things he enjoys and is working out what he wants to spend his newly freed-up time doing.  He doesn’t want to sit at home and watch TV – he wants to keep busy.

For me it has sharpened my focus on the things that matter most to me: Bruce, our life together and our family.  Stuff that I would have worried about in the past I just don’t bother with, and although things that have always been important to me like career and professional development are still important, they just occupy a much smaller portion of my time and attention at the moment.

Unfortunately, cancer is a very unpredictable and unrelenting disease and we both recognise there are more twists and turns ahead of us.   Each time Bruce has been faced with a new challenge, we deal with it and then redefine what “normal” looks like for us – it’s changed a few times over the last year.

Our motto from the outset has been “put a plan in place for the worst, hope for the best and live for now”.

It’s been tested a couple of times but generally it is the strategy we continue to rely upon.

I think our hopes are that we can continue enjoying our life together as much as possible for as long as possible.

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