Cat brings comfort as Rochelle fights brain cancer

Rochelle Bugden finds her new pet, Tuma, is a comfort while she deals with two brain tumours. Pictures: ADAM McLEAN

Rochelle Bugden finds her new pet, Tuma, is a comfort while she deals with two brain tumours. Pictures: ADAM McLEAN

Rochelle pictured before an operation to remove part of the tumour.

Rochelle pictured before an operation to remove part of the tumour.

Rochelle Bugden's kitten, Tuma, is both a comfort and a reminder of her continuing battle against two brain tumours.

The aggressive tumours are inoperable, so the 21-year-old Oak Flats woman is pinning her hopes on a clinical trial at Royal Melbourne Hospital.

On Friday, she was anxiously waiting for a phone call, with her parents Kim and Rob ready to whisk her to Melbourne for tests that would determine her suitability for several trials into tumours being conducted at the hospital.

It is their last hope.

"Every time you start to feel positive, you get a kick in the guts with more bad news," Mr Bugden said. "It's hard to take. We just hope she gets into one of these trials. She's been so strong, but she needs some hope."

It was just one week before Rochelle Bugden's 21st birthday last September that a brain scan showed up an abnormal growth.

'There's no cure. I'm only hoping that I can get accepted into one of these trials so I feel like I'm doing something.'

Doctors put off a biopsy for the week to allow her to celebrate the milestone, but when the results finally came in, they were not good.

"I was diagnosed with a grade-four glioblastoma on my brain stem," she said.

"When they did the biopsy and debulked [removed] part of the tumour, it led to paralysis on the left side of my face, as the tumour was so close to nerves. They cannot operate any further."

She went through a course of chemotherapy, then in April there was more bad news with the discovery of another tumour on the frontal lobe.

More chemotherapy followed, as well as stereotactic radiotherapy at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.

"After that, I started to get really bad migraines and doctors have told me both of the tumours are growing again - 'significantly', they said.

"There's no cure. I'm only hoping that I can get accepted into one of these trials so I feel like I'm doing something. I hate sitting here doing nothing."

Rochelle Bugden, with her parents, Kim and Rob,  sister Kara and brother-in-law Daniel Whiteman.

Rochelle Bugden, with her parents, Kim and Rob, sister Kara and brother-in-law Daniel Whiteman.

The chemotherapy has thinned, not taken, her hair, but the paralysis has blurred her vision and she has lost her hearing on her left side.

"The medication is keeping me from feeling nauseous, but some days I just have no energy.

"It's hard; I was upset, but now I'm pretty emotionless."

She said she gets a lot of support from her parents and older sister, Kara, plus her kitten has given her some joy.

"She's been asking for a kitten since she was a little girl," Mr Bugden said. "But we're not cat people, so we always said 'no'.

"When the second tumour was discovered, she asked us again. How could we say no?"

Mrs Bugden has had to give up work to care for her ill daughter, and the family faces ongoing medical expenses.

Uncle Brian Bugden has set up a fund-raiser to help the family out. To donate, visit mycause. com.au/page/rochellebugden.

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