Patient 71 by Julie Randall

Reviewed by Clare Brook

I am happy and healthy,

All my organs have healed,

My body and its organs have healed,

I have faith in life.

Imagine you are a really happy successful 51-year-old, then without warning you suffer a seizure.  The next day you are diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour – Stage Four Metastatic Advanced Melanoma. How would you cope? Julie Randall promised her two daughters she would survive – the above became her mantra and it served her well.

Julie Randall’s Patient 71 is a comprehensive account of surviving a medical death sentence.  And I really do mean ‘comprehensive’!  She includes the outfits worn to medical appointments, the many conversations with doctors in Australia and America, naming and describing friends and family members, who went to extraordinary lengths to support her healing project, and faithful Roxy her Golden Retriever.   Julie is completely honest about losing the plot at various stages, relying on her wonderful husband Scott to pick up the pieces. Routinely, diagnosis begins with an MRI scan, however for Julie it was an enormous obstacle as she is claustrophobic and it would not have been possible without Scot massaging her feet and talking her through it.   She details her internal dialogue with negative and positive thoughts naming them ‘good monster’ and ‘nasty monster.

Religiously following advice from a cellular biologist, Julie eliminated sugar, alcohol, gluton and grains from her diet, and took up yoga and meditation.  She relates how she spent time speaking to her body, thanking and asking cells and organs to work with her to restore health and normality to her life. If that seems a little hippy dippy there now seems to be some evidence that cells in the digestive tract hold mind and memory.  Hence phrases like ‘I have a gut feeling’, ‘trust your gut’.  So intuitively she was on the right track.

All of the above, although helpful would not have been enough. Researching via the Internet, reading everything on brain tumours, it became clear to survive she needed to be included in an experimental drug trial in America.   First obstacle – the experiment was full, only 70 patients allowed.  The second was money.  Her support team and her father handled most of the money problem by fund raising in the community.  But being included in the experiment was down to Julie and it was not easy.

Julie was refused time and again.  Her persistence defied all barriers, until, many pages later, she became Patient 71 and boards a flight to Oregon, ready to be victorious.  Not quite that simple of course.  Readers hear about painful biopsies, massive doses of homesickness, a few expensive trips back to Australia between treatments, and wonderful friends turning up in America to support and ease the loneliness, when Scott had to be in Australia.  And then there’s the participation in the touch football tournament right in the middle of her treatment!  Julie’s not one to miss an opportunity.   And she is a survivor.

Patient 71 is a wide-ranging and raw account about how a mother promised her daughters she would not leave them – she would find a cure for an incurable disease.  And Julie Randall did just that.

Patient 71

(2017)

By Julie Randall

Hachette

ISBN:  978 0 7336 3787 2

$32.99; 306pp

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