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Rankin Inlet woman battles brain cancer at home

Viral Tik Tok, cooking and family keep Alexandra Rudd’s spirits up in face of prognosis
Alexandra Rudd is back at home in Rankin Inlet while taking IV chemotherapy for brain cancer. After an experimental treatment failed last year, Rudd’s doctor gave her one to two months to live in November 2021. Photo courtesy of Alexandra Rudd

Once thought to be in remission, Alexandra Rudd’s brain cancer became more severe in the past year, but one would hardly know it watching her charming – and viral – TikTok cooking videos.

Now home in Rankin inlet, Rudd is staying as positive as she can in the face of a prognosis in November that gave her one to two months to live.

“Their prognostic guesses are only guesses due to the tumour of where it is, the size and going by other patients’ outcomes,” said Rudd, who is now on an IV chemotherapy.

Despite that news, Rudd has continued updating her TikTok account, where a macaroni cooking video she filmed in December went viral and received more than 130,000 views.

“I made a family dish my grandma taught me to make,” said Rudd. “It’s comfort food, which is why I believe it went viral. I made the video for my family, for something for them to look back on and follow along with if they chose to, and it went viral on me. I wasn’t expecting it to go viral. I was amazed and shocked that it did.”

She films all sorts of cooking videos, even one from a hospital bed. She also uses the platform to discuss her health conditions with viewers. Her account’s bio says it all: “a Nunavut girl legally blind and brain cancer fighter badass.”

As a baby, Rudd was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis, a condition that can lead to tumours on nerve endings and wreak havoc on the body. Rudd underwent two years of chemotherapy as a toddler to treat optic nerve gliomas, but due to the tumours, she became legally blind.

In 2016 and 2017, she began having major headaches. An MRI in the summer of 2017 showed a shadow in her brain, and another MRI in December identified a growing mass.

In March 2018, she had a biopsy. Because of the location of the tumour, only a small amount was taken, and it showed stage 2 brain cancer.

The tumour was growing so quickly that doctors treated it as stage 3 brain cancer and Rudd began a regime of radiation and chemotherapy. In the summer of 2019, she was considered in remission.

Regular MRIs every three months began to show minor changes, starting in January 2021. By April, it showed the tumour was clearly growing again, and in June, she was diagnosed with glioblastoma stage 4 brain cancer.

Rudd started on an experimental chemotherapy treatment that attacks certain genes that allow for tumours to grow quickly. Unfortunately, it didn’t work.

“I thought it was working, but an MRI confirmed that it wasn’t,” said Rudd. “It made me very tired.”

That’s when she received the prognosis in November. According to The Brain Tumour Charity, only 25 per cent of glioblastoma patients survive more than one year, and only five per cent survive more than five years.

Rudd’s treatment switched to Avastin, a chemotherapy drug that blocks blood flow to the tumour, allowing for some relief of its effects, which she is also on steroids to help with.

“I am weaker and have low energy,” said Rudd about how she’s feeling now. “I need help for my daily living.”

Cooking has become difficult, as her energy drains so quickly now. She still cooks as much as she can with breaks and help from her family.

“It is very hard to stay positive all the time,” said Rudd. “It’s very hard to do so and it’s all I can do to stay strong. My family has helped in a lot of ways, so that helps me tremendously to stay positive.”

For anyone else going through a difficult situation of their own, Rudd has this advice: don’t keep your feelings bottled up when you are overwhelmed, and keep doing what you enjoy doing as much as possible.

In a recent video, she thanked the doctors and nurses that have allowed her to take chemotherapy in her home of Rankin Inlet. She also thanked Rankin Inlet Fire Department for transportation between her home and health centre to receive treatment.

She encourages people to donate to the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada or Cancer Care Manitoba.

Her TikTok can also be found under the account alexandra.rudd.