Cancer

Updated 22 March 2018

‘Doctors thought it was menopause – but I had stage 4 brain cancer’

In October 2010 Rhona Jones started to feel dizzy. Her doctor thought she was starting menopause. She had a brain tumour.

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When Rhona Jones, a 58-year-old with two children, two twin grandsons and a granddaughter, started to feel dizzy her doctor thought it was the onset of menopause. He prescribed hormone-therapy to deal with the symptoms.

“Until one day I was walking and my left leg caved in,” Rhona recalls. She saw her GP who immediately referred her to a neurologist. 

“The neurologist sent me for an MRI and CT scan. To my utter shock and dismay, I was a diagnosed with a brain tumour.” Rhona had a glioblastoma which is a grade 4 tumour. 

Rhona says, “Dr Maurizio Zorio, a brilliant neurosurgeon, took the time to explain what was wrong and what could be done. I would have surgery first and then they would decide on the necessary treatment if the tumour was malignant.”

After a six-hour surgery, she spent a night in ICU.

"When the results came back, Dr Zorio explained my tumour was malignant and we should throw the book at it with whatever treatment available. He referred me to an oncologist.

“I felt as though my feet had been swept out from under me. I felt as though I had received a death sentence; I was terrified and withdrew from the world for a while.

“My family was also in total shock. They were very supportive of me and heart sore. It was a tough time for them, cancer affects the whole family. We all felt like I had been given a death sentence."

A long road to recovery

“The first year was the most traumatic while I underwent radiation and chemo, and had checkups every three months. Each time I went for an MRI I was terrified of the outcome and would wonder if the beast had returned.”

Rhona says the best advice Dr Zorio gave me was, “Don’t Google – each case is different." She would wake up every morning with a feeling of dread and sadness that it would be her last day.

Rhona Jones quote

Advice on getting through chemo, radiation and an MRI

“The thing that scared me the most was radiation – the room and mask are scary; it’s cold and you’re all alone. The door is huge and closed using a remote," says Rhona. "I had to tell myself it was just a machine and couldn’t do anything to me. If you do get claustrophobic, I'd suggest you ask them to cut out the nose or mouth section when they make your radiation mask."

Chemotherapy made Rhona quite nauseous. “I’d start with the anti-nausea medication at 03:30 in morning, followed by chemo and then steroids. Chemo makes your stomach feel like cement, so try to follow a healthy diet full of fruits. Prunes helped me a lot!"

She also says the MRI feels like you’re in a very noisy tunnel. “I’m blessed that every time I go for mine I have an angel who sits with me at Milpark Radiology."

Rhona advises that you dress warmly when you have an MRI. "It's cold in there! Don't wear anything with steel – a zip, for example – and take socks. My husband once had to take his socks off for me to wear!”

Making lifestyle changes

Rhona gave up smoking after her brain surgery. She has an MRI every six months but only has to see the doctor if there are any changes. “My last MRI in October 2017 was clear.

“Since my brain tumour, I have become a kinder, more giving person. My tumour was on the front right side which effects your emotions, so I have drifted away from some people in my life," she says.

"If my story can help just one person that there is always hope that would be another blessing."

Today Rhona’s motto is, “Be kinder and gentler, as everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle. I believe in miracles because I am one!"

Image credit: Supplied

 

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CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit cansa.org.za.

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