Thursday, 21 November 2013

Algy's Demise - Fangirly Special: Questions from an Actor - Some More Info.

I'm literally crashing out this week as my entire November supply of energy was used up with a trip to Nottingham to see actor/comedian Ben Miller in a fantastically funny play called 'The Duck House'. After that I headed down to Plymouth afterwards for my favorite annual event, ArmadaCon - a small scifi convention celebrating 25 years with most of us still standing after all that time!

I had planned my trip to Nottingham as soon as the dates came out earlier this year, as it was the first venue to be announced where 'Duck House' would be playng.  Had I waited, I could have seen it in either Malvern or Guildford, but heck travelling to a new place is always an adventure! Although I would ask the Park Inn - a Radisson hotel - to be a little more honest about their disabled access i.e. little or none! Anyway, I'm going to leave that for another time,

Nottingham is a big place which seems to be undergoing mass reconstruction at the moment. But the area around the Theatre Royal, is a shopper's paradise with most of the big high street stores close to hand, some in very nicely appointed shopping malls such as Victoria and Corner House.

But it was bloody cold too! Remember in Cornwall 8 deg. C is considered 'ice age' so it's a shock when one is lugging shopping about in temps struggling to hit 4 or 5 deg C!  However, one of the *best* eating experiences I have had in a long while, was in a place called 'Hot World Buffet', an 'all you can eat' restuarant with an international cuisine theme. You are with choices of Chinese, Mongolian, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Mexican and good ol' 'Murican' food. You can mix and match, do what ever you like. And the desserts! Wow..let's just say not all were slimming world friendly!! Here's the link :) Red Hot World Buffet Nottingham.

Anyway, I had arranged to meet upwith Ben before the evening performance for a quick 'hello' which I was glad he agreed to. Expecting an actor to hang around after a performance, would be a bit much to ask especially after an evening of dropping one's trousers, chasing duck houses and avoiding senior MP's with a strange predelections towards Camembert cheese, Pandas and Angela Merkels..!  It's enough to wear a chap out fo sho'!

I'm not saying another word about the play itself except for only the third time in my life, I had laughed so hard, I had to reach for my Ventolin inhaler during intemission and afterwards! It is a brilliantly funny peice of work. The play starts it's West End run at the Vaudeville Theatre (Strand) from Nov 27th for previews then in earnest from December 10th - March 29th 2014. Details here  Please go an see it, it is brilliant play and all the cast are fantastic!!

Ben was his usual lovely self and greeted me with a big hug and after some pleasantries, he asked me some detailed questions about my radiotherapy and what side effects there were. I did manage to get my head out of 'fangirly' mode as this bit was quite serious. I was not going to play the 'little heroic me' and say that I was fine, as the man asked direct questions. But it was nice that Ben thought I looked so well. Here's a list of what I told him, but also what I forgot to tell him about the more long term effects.

Fractionated Stereotactic Radio Therapy Side Effects.

Short Term Effects -Worsening of current tumour symptoms of fatigue, neuralgic pain (is impacting on Rt. Trigeminal Nerve), balance and spacial perception. Also cognitive problems, short term memory problems, mood swings, premature onset menopause (not worried about that one, 2/3 of the way there already!)  Also possible increase in petit mal or other forms of absence seizures but so far, that hasn't happened. Hair loss around target sites - didn't happen to me. I have thin but tough hair! ;-)

Long Term Effects - The reason why I had FSR rather than the shorter more intense 'Gamma Knife radiosurgery' is because of where Algy is situated. There were concerns about a more intense therapy in that region could irradiate the brain stem just below where Algy is nesting against the Pons. So smaller, more wide spread doses hopefully lessens the impact of radiation in that area of the brain.

And also - possible damage to pituitary gland, I was told I should be referred to an endocrinologist and checked yearly as the pituitary gland was in the path of one of the beams used to target Algy. Premature aging of the brain, a 2% chance of developing a malignant brain tumour over 10 years and so on. There is also an increased risk of stroke but then lifestyle changes will hopefully offset that.

The above is of course, the worse case scenario and given I am already neary 53 and the above could occur anytime over a 10 year period, I'm in a time of life where I could develop these symptoms anyway, so considered it worth the risk for radiotherapy now rather in 2-3 years time. I don't see the logic in waiting for Algy to get any bigger or waiting for more damage to occur before treatment.

I will be having yearly MRI scans to check on Algy's progess as it can take up to 5 - 10 years to check if Algy's growth has been inhibited or stopped completely. There is a 40% chance Algy may shrink over that time but no one can say by how much or what damage may be permanent despite Algy's shrinkage. So really that's all that can be done for now. The intent of treatment is to arrest Algy's growth, so anything else is a plus, an extra. Surgery would not be considered due to Algy having tucked himself neatly against the Pons with the cranial nerveswrapped around him, and also being so close to the optic nerves too. So *fingers crossed* Algy will be a good boy, stay put and not make me blind, paralysed or anything else!

So there you go! It does sound a lot worse than it is, and of course, no-one can predict the future and how things might turn out. But one thing I *can* predict is that when I go up to see 'The Duck House' in March next year, I will be laughing as hard and as loud as the rest of the audience! If 'Duck House *doesn't* get an Olivier Award, there'll be a protest!

Break a leg Ben! :D

Ben Miller with some mad woman outisde the Theatre Royal one cold November evening!

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