‘Brain cancer made me a better professional’, says Palmeiras doctor – 04/24/2022

The pandemic was coming to Brazil, in March 2020, when Gustavo Magliocca, exercise and sports doctor, founding member of Care Club and head of the medical department of Sociedade Esportiva Palmeiras, was diagnosed at age 39 with brain cancer. Afraid, but also eager to live, Gustavo, affectionately known as Doc, now 41 years old, tells how it was to change the role of doctor for that of patient and how he has lived with the tumor.

“It was a Saturday in March, I was getting ready to take my daughter to the swimming pool of the building when I felt a change on the right side of my body, I didn’t feel pain, but I couldn’t move my arms and legs very well. I observed the symptoms that day , as they persisted, I decided to go to the emergency room on Sunday accompanied by a doctor friend.

Given my changes, I imagined that it could be anything from a malaise to a condition of stress, but the doctor who saw me suspected it was something cerebral and asked for an MRI of the head. The same day came the diagnosis: brain cancer — the tumor was already of considerable size and was in a delicate position.

Upon receiving a diagnosis, I decided that I would fight

Changing places, leaving the role of doctor to become a patient was bad, terrible. I was afraid, I was tense and worried, but I thought that no matter how serious my case was, I would fight with all my might for my life, my children and my wife—all I thought about was my family.

Gustavo Magliocca, Palmeiras doctor, had brain cancer - Personal archive - Personal archive
Image: Personal archive

As soon as I received the diagnosis, I shared the news with two friends who worked at the hospital where I was treated. They promptly mobilized the surgical neurology and clinical oncology teams at my disposal. Two days later I had the surgery.

The tumor I have in my brain is malignant and aggressive. The doctors explained that the area where it is located contains a lot of noble tissue and because of the position it is in, it could not be completely resected. For this reason, they dried out as much as possible.

An example that illustrates my case well is as if the tumor were a tree, the leaves and branches can be pruned, but the entire tree cannot be cut or uprooted.

Two weeks after the surgery, I started cancer treatment, a combination of radiotherapy and oral chemotherapy. Even though I was a doctor, I didn’t intervene in my team’s decisions and kept myself in the position of a patient.

They took care of the disease part, while I got involved and gave suggestions only on things related to my area of ​​expertise, which is looking for ways to improve the quality of life through physical activity, food, hydration, sleep and mental health.

I had sequelae in the motor part, vision and hearing

Gustavo Magliocca, Palmeiras doctor, had brain cancer - Personal archive - Personal archive
Image: Personal archive

Throughout the process, I was left with some sequelae of the disease. On the motor side, my right side works slower. When going up or down a ladder, my foot is positioned differently and I have difficulty getting over an obstacle on the floor, for example.

The other sequels were in vision and hearing. I see more up close, less far away, and I started wearing glasses. I lost around 60% of hearing in my right ear.

My reasoning and memory were also affected. If anyone asks me how the conversation with the reporter who interviewed me for this story went, I’ll remember that we talked about my diagnosis, but I won’t remember the details I told.

I also noticed that I lost concentration a little. Today I take longer to read a book, sometimes I need to reread some parts. When watching a movie with subtitles, I lose a lot of subtitles.

I included the use of cannabidiol in the treatment

Gustavo Magliocca, Palmeiras doctor, had brain cancer - Personal archive - Personal archive
Image: Personal archive

We did a genetic study to understand the origin of my tumor, it seems that I am the first in the family to have it, my two children did not inherit the mutation. After the cancer treatment that lasted 1 year and 2 months, I continued with clinical follow-up and six months ago I started using cannabidiol (CBD) on my own initiative, but with the authorization of my oncologist. Cannabidiol is one of the substances found in cannabisa plant popularly known as marijuana.

There is not much information in the literature about the effects of cannabidiol in patients with brain tumors, but there are reports of benefits of this substance in other diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, which affects memory.

I made some associations with my condition and symptoms, and I thought, why not try and see what happens? I have liked the result and felt improvement in the motor part and memory.

Recently, I went to the United Arab Emirates with Palmeiras and decided not to take the cannabidiol for fear that the medication would be barred. I didn’t take it for three weeks and I noticed a worsening.

Physical exercise makes me willing to work and live better

Another ally of this process was sport. He had practiced before, but much less than he would have liked because of the rush of everyday life. After the diagnosis, exercising became a priority. I do swimming, weight training and indoor biking almost daily.

Physical exercise was fundamental in my treatment and in my life, it helped me maintain weight and stimulated the motor part. He is essential for me, he is the one who increases my disposition and energy to work, to live better, to bring me well-being, joy and more health.

Before going through everything I went through, I thought I was invincible, I already had the script of my story: I was going to retire, live until I was 80 and so on, but cancer showed me the fragility of life and of the human being and that we know tomorrow.

Cancer made me a better doctor

Gustavo Magliocca, Palmeiras doctor, had brain cancer - Personal archive - Personal archive
Image: Personal archive

Cancer brought me maturity, changed my way of thinking and made me a better doctor. I started to value things more, to be optimistic, to have more hope, to be less rushed, to listen better to my patients, to have more empathy and a greater desire to help and welcome them.

I am currently fine, but as my tumor is unresectable, I have to live with it. My treatment is very much along the lines of how I am feeling clinically.

If it gets worse, a new surgery and a new round of chemotherapy may be necessary, but I don’t waste my time projecting a bad future. I hope to see a horizon beyond what literature has shown so far.

Before I was a person of little faith, I trusted myself much more, today I understand that I have to walk side by side with God.”

About Jenni Smith

She's our PC girl, so anything is up to her. She is also responsible for the videos of Play Crazy Game, as well as giving a leg in the news.

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