18 July 2019
At just 40 years old, Gina was diagnosed with Stage 4 glioblastoma. She was told that she would have 18 months to live, and immediately underwent her first invasive brain surgery. That was over three and a half years ago.
"They talked about how I need to be awake during my five-hour operation. I knew I had to mentally prepare for it because there was no other way.
During surgery, first I felt them sawing off part of my skull. It felt like a dentist was drilling into my brain. It felt weird. They kept me half sedated but I was conscious. They placed a type of cover over my head but I could watch the operation on a screen that was in front of me. It was amazing, and terrifying at the same time—I could actually see my brain. I saw them taking the tumour out with great delicacy.
Until I had a seizure on the table. That was scary.
They were panicking then. At that point, they were taking the lump out of my head. They took some of it out but there was a bit left behind. Five hours had passed as I fell in and out of consciousness.
When I woke up, I had lost my ability to speak. I was saying it in my head, but I couldn’t get it out.
I could only guide my arm because one arm was in a sling and the other was all hooked up to drips and other stuff. I wanted to desperately say something but I couldn’t.
At one point, I was desperately trying to get someone's attention but he was too busy to notice, chatting to someone else. So, I waved my hand about. Then he took notice what I was doing. He realised I was having a seizure. He told me to calm down and take it easy. I got over that, thank God. But I stayed awake for the rest of the night. I didn't even blink. It was cold but I couldn’t speak so I couldn't tell anyone. I knew what I wanted, but all I could do was wait until I could show him what I wanted. It wasn’t easy I tell you.
I was in hospital for a total of seven weeks, but it didn’t end there. I stayed with my parents once I was discharged. My medication made me put on weight. But at night, I suffered seizures, and had to keep going back to hospital. It was happening so often that I always had an overnight bag packed and ready to go.
I was taking these terrible tablets which made me feel really sick. I just thought, “How am I going get through this?” I felt like I was dying.
Radiotherapy meant I was in and out of hospital for another six weeks. I was the youngest one there. My hair started falling out I got really annoyed but I knew I had to do it. Thankfully, I started to feel better.
Then I got this horrible bubble on my head after had I radiotherapy. It was infected.
My tumour was still growing. Doctors didn’t know what to do, so I got in touch with surgeon Dr Charlie Teo who was willing to take more risks.
I was told that the operation could impact my speech, I could lose movement down my right hand side or I could even be wheelchair bound. But I knew that it was my only option.
Dr Teo removed 96 per cent of my tumour. He also refitted the part of my skull that was removed during the first operation. Thanks to him April 2017 marked 18 months since my diagnosis—the time that doctors had told me I had left to live.
I’m here alive. I feel absolutely healthy and I haven’t had a seizure since September 2017. I've never felt better but I'm still on medication as I may still be at risk of seizures. My message to others is to be happy and positive always. I am happier now than I have ever been.
And when it comes to life, there is no turning back. Live, laugh and love. That’s my motto, I can honestly say that."