In the Bullring


My metaphor madness continues. I’ve been increasingly obsessed in getting to know my enemy, aka TEF. As we all know, it’s a frighteningly intelligent, tough and complex foe. That’s one of the main reasons I plumped for a strategy of throwing as many weapons at it as early as possible, rather than rely on the standard of treatment for my kind of brain tumor.
So I’m now a Spanish matador, playing a psychological game of engagement and warfare with an enemy that is as keen to win as I am. I got some new ammo last week, with funding secured for both the immunotherapy treatment, as well as the electrode therapy.
I had my first infusion of the immunotherapy – nivolumab, marketed as Opdivo – on Friday. It was all plain sailing until right at the end, when I had a slight allergic reaction which saw my chest tightening and caused much coughing. Nothing a shot of benedryl couldn’t sort. I’ll be having these every two weeks from now on.
Electrode therapy – rather confusingly marketed as Optune – will start in May, allowing my sore and increasingly hairless scalp time to recover from radiotherapy.
So I’m all set. A full array of ‘banderillas’ that I and the army of charming medics helping me are throwing at TEF. The plan is to wound it, lengthening the time I have as more banderillas come on to the market – including the sword, or ‘estocada’ – I’ll have great pleasure in plunging into TEF during our final dance. Opdivo may turn out to be the estocada, or one of the other new treatments.
I miss London and my fabulous family and friends very much. Your emails, photos, gifts, messages, and now even visits, are hugely welcome. My sister – all hail to the new director of Tate Modern! – is with me this week. Many years ago she asked me to cut her hair, while I was staying with her at Cambridge. I gave her what I thought was a very chic short cut. It’s taken 37 years for her to return the favor. My hair started falling out last week and having clumps of over-dyed tresses fall out all over the place is really not nice. Last night Frances snipped away and hey presto, twins we are again. She even said I looked like scary lady from House of Cards. Sibling love can be very blind at times.
All this is good. As was my weekly meeting with Dr Silverman, the super-hero managing my radiotherapy. I’m exactly half way through the initial six week radio and chemo program. Check out Ed’s pix to see me and my mask. I asked Silverman to tell me to stop googling, as it tends to bring me down… and yet I’m drawn irresistibly to researching more aspects of my disease. He paused. Then explained that because I’m unusually young to have this condition, I’m in much better shape than the majority of people he sees. My body is able to tolerate the treatment (apart from an on-going cold, I really do feel fine), and this, together with the other positive points I have (size and location of tumor, excellent surgery, no regrowth to date) means I have every reason to feel good.
And I do. x

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