Home comforts help young cancer patient

Press Release Posted 23 November 2015

A young cancer patient is making a startling recovery from a brain tumour after receiving treatment at The Christie - without ever being an inpatient.

George Robinson is receiving chemotherapy in tablet form which spares him making visits to the leading cancer centre's south Manchester site for lengthy treatment sessions.

And his latest scan shows the tumour has gone - 12 months after he started the course of chemotherapy.

George, 21, was diagnosed in May 2014 after he fell ill with severe headaches. He underwent four operations at Salford Royal Hospital - one of which was a 12-hour operation for a biopsy - before being treated with radiotherapy and chemotherapy at The Christie.

The days and weeks after his diagnosis were especially punishing: he spent days in a high dependency unit and even survived a bout of meningitis. But George, from Ashton-in-Makerfield, need visit The Christie just once a month now for a check-up and to receive his chemotherapy tablets which he has to take for one week in every four.

He is now in remission, and while doctors have warned him that microscopic traces of the tumour may still remain because they cannot be detected by a scan, he is convinced he has beaten the cancer.

He said: "I'm absolutely thrilled. The doctors tell me there may be tiny traces of the tumour there, but in my own mind it's gone. It's still sinking in - in fact it probably won't sink in for some time. "When we first got the scan results my friends and family were bouncing off the wall. Then I got a bit giddy myself.

"I noticed on Facebook that it was exactly a year ago that I started on the chemo, and when I think back to a year ago, and how far I've come, I'm stunned."

George added:"I've never actually been an inpatient at The Christie. It's much better than I imagined and it doesn't even feel as though I'm on chemo. When people think of chemo they imagine people going in to hospital all day and being hooked up to a machine.

"After taking my tablets that's me done. I can just get on with my life. I had no idea you could take chemotherapy in tablets. There are some side-effects - I sometimes feel sick, without ever actually being sick, and I do feel tired as well, but I don't have to spend hours on a ward. It's much easier than I ever thought it would be."

George has been taking the chemotherapy drug temozolomide for 12 months and doctors say he should continue to take it for a further three months to be sure the tumour has gone.

He has seen at first-hand how challenging a course of chemotherapy in hospital can be: his maternal grandmother Ann Henderson received chemotherapy after being diagnosed with breast and ovarian cancer. She is now recovering well.

Despite the shock of the diagnosis, George proposed to long-term girlfriend Kirsty Dixon, 25, just a week later while he was being treated at Salford. The couple, who met while both were working on the reception desk of a GP surgery, married in April this year and have since bought a home together.

While he has not yet returned to full-time work, the tablet chemotherapy regime gives George greater freedom and he has taken up part-time work as a volunteer in a charity shop. He plans to go to college to study electrical engineering when he has completed his treatment. He is being supported by mum Julie, dad Tony and sisters Leyanne, 31, and 20-year-old Becky.

George became a vegan after his diagnosis and insists his diet is helping his recovery. "I cut out all meat and dairy, drank two smoothies every day and reduced my sugar intake as much as possible. I also read a book called Radical Remission which helped me a lot as it tells the stories of many different patients who did a similar thing," he said.

Dr Rao Gattamaneni, the consultant clinical oncologist who treated George at The Christie, said that not all brain tumours were treatable by oral chemotherapy. "It's not often that we see a brain tumour completely resolved by oral chemotherapy so George has been very lucky, and I'm absolutely delighted for him.

"There are only a few chemotherapy tablets that can be taken orally, but it's always much simpler to have it that way. There are fewer side-effects and it's easier to tolerate, so George is lucky in that respect as well.

"The benefits to the patient are obvious: while you still have to come in and have blood tests and to pick up a prescription, you don't have to have a drip attached to you and you can go home."

George has nothing but praise for staff at The Christie, and especially at the young oncology unit where he received the bulk of his treatment. "In some ways it doesn't even seem like a hospital. It's a very calm place, there's a very relaxing atmosphere and there's always someone to talk to, always someone on the end of the phone."

;