Imagine you start suffering terrible headaches, vomiting and double vision and after weeks of being unsure of the why you learn you have a form of brain cancer, now imagine you’re just 26-years-old and in the prime of your life.
This is Olivia Pratt’s story and thanks to the PA Hospital she is not only able to share it, but is considered cancer free.
“I had headaches and migraines for probably five weeks before I ended up in hospital, they would have started in mid-March (2021),” Olivia said.
Olivia and her partner Jack.
“I had a really bad migraine, to the point where I was violently ill for like 24 hours, nothing was helping so I went to the emergency department (ED) at another Brisbane hospital. They treated the migraine and they did do a CT scan but nothing came up.
When Olivia started to experience worsening double vision, she made what would be an eventful appointment with an optometrist.
“I booked an appointment at the local Specsavers due to the headaches and the optometrist said ‘I think you need to go to the hospital, I advise going to the PA, they have ophthalmology in the ED and I will give you a letter to hand to the doctor’,” she said.
“I went into went into the ED at the PA and they said ‘we’ll take you straight through’, which I think is unheard of, people don’t normally get admitted straight away for eye problems, unless it’s really bad.
“They did a CT scan with contrast and found that there was a lesion around my pineal gland.”
Admitted to the PA just two days after her 26th birthday, Olivia learned that she had pineal gland cancer and it was causing swelling on her brain, which was a major source of her headaches.
The Cannon Hill resident would spend the next three months under the care of the PA, including three brain surgeries, and time spent recovering in multiple wards where she had to re-learn how to walk. This was then followed by both radiation therapy and chemotherapy.
“Once I entered the PA, I didn’t leave, all of my treatment has been with the PA Hospital,” she said.
“I was admitted on the Thursday, and the following week I had my first brain operation, which was to put in an external drain in to drain the excess fluid from the swelling.
“The team at the PA, across the whole board were amazing, every step of the way. The doctors at neurology, the staff at radiation oncology, medical oncology, and physiotherapy. Across the board they were amazing.
“I couldn’t praise the PA more. If anyone tells me that they have a problem, I always tell them “go to the PA!”
It was following a rehabilitation session that Olivia was offered the opportunity to be a part of a telehealth cancer exercise program made possible by funding from the PA Research Foundation. The project entitled: Delivering supervised exercise for cancer patients via telehealth: an implementation study, involved two one hour exercise sessions a week for 12 weeks via Microsoft Teams. She credits these sessions which were led by PA physiotherapist Jennifer Tan, with helping her return to work and overcome the lingering effects of her treatment.
“In February I finished off my rehab and physiotherapy and that’s when Jennifer Tan and Dr Elise Gane from the PA touched base about the cancer exercise telehealth program and I started that, which was very helpful,” she said.
“Thanks to the program I was able to return to both of my jobs around the same time. I returned first to my photography job, because while it’s not necessarily low intensity, it’s potentially has more time sitting than my other job which is working the checkouts at Woolworths, which is all standing for the entire shift except for my break.
“When I started the 12 week program, I was ok to stand for maybe two hours and didn’t have a lot of strength in my legs to stand, and didn’t have a lot of strength in my arms to carry stuff which I do a lot of for both jobs.
Olivia (right) and her family.
“Elise and Jen went over all the different exercises and stretches and they make the exercise program try and represent what you need to work on, as well as giving me other things to do outside of the telehealth sessions to try and strengthen what I needed to for work and get back to my full capacity.
“By May I was able to return to Woolworths, because by doing the telehealth sessions I’d gained enough strength to endure standing for long periods of time without a break.
“It also helped to mitigate the fatigue and helped me feel almost back to normal.”
When you give to the PA Foundation you save lives of young people like Olivia and help them bounce back after cancer treatment. You can give to the Foundation to help patients like Olivia here.