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Severe anger issues in Paediatric brain tumour survivor

Posts: 1
Joined: Sep 2011

Hi. This is my first post on this message board. I have spent my morning researching online causes for my son's anger and thought maybe first hand stories may give me some insight.

A brief history:
My son was diagnosed with an inoperable low grade glioma in the brain stem when he was 3.5 years old. It is a focal medulla tumour (Juvenile Pilocytic Astrocytoma - Grade 1 Glioma). He underwent a partial resection and biopsy which took 4 weeks for him to recover from. He then underwent 16 months of weekly chemotherapy (Vinblastine). He finished his chemo in Jan 2010 and is now 6.5 years old.
He has only very subtle, minor side effects from his tumour and/or surgery - to most people he looks like a normal, healthy 6 year old. He is very bright and has advanced verbal skills.

90% of the time he is a total sweetheart and an absolute joy to be with. The other 10% of the time he is not fun to be around. He gets very over the top angry over nothing (generally). He yells, swears, throws things, hits, slams door, screams he hates us....etc. Often we can't figure out the exact trigger. These episodes happen more often when he is tired or hungry and seem to be related to frustration. School is starting in a few days and we are very worried he is going to be expelled for his behaviour. I will definitely be speaking with his teacher and principal to make sure they understand that his behaviour is not his fault, but they can only put up with so much bad behaviour. This started about 10 months ago, but has been getting progressively worse over time.

Does anyone know what could be causing this? These are my thoughts:
- severe malnutrition from age 8 months till diagnosis at 3.5 may have hindered proper brain development (he was severe failure to thrive, but no one could figure out why - his tumour sucked away his appetite and he wouldn't eat. ever. he was a very sick little boy.)
-the brain surgery may have damaged something though this is unlikely because they only removed the part of the tumour that was hanging off the brainstem and avoided the tumour within the brainstem.
-the tumour location itself. his remaining tumour is 1.3cm
-the chemo drugs which killed healthy brain cells as well as the bad ones.
-the chemo which shrunk his tumour significantly causing alteration of the neural pathways
-being so sick for so long during such a critical time of childhood/development

Which is most likely? Has anyone else had experience with this? What did you do? Any insight or advise would be most appreciated!!!

carolenk's picture
Posts: 909
Joined: Feb 2011

Your child might be suffering from periods of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) Try a ketogenic diet or at the very least, stop letting him have all forms of refined sugar. Hypoglycemics do best on a low carb, high fat diet. The brain is full of cholesterol. The child needs to eat organic eggs & butter, cheese, etc.

Low blood sugar can flip the sweetest person into someone that you described in your son.

Good luck.

Carolen (ovarian cancer survivor & nurse practitioner)

Posts: 9
Joined: Sep 2011

Has a neurologist seen him? Sometimes temporal lobe seizures manifest as behavior changes.
Children also can be very angry when depressed.

palmyrafan's picture
Posts: 396
Joined: Mar 2011

He may just now be coming to terms with what has happened to him. For so long he had to be "up" physically, emotionally, mentally, etc. in order to be able to go through the surgery and the chemo. He may also not be feeling well and doesn't know how to tell you for fear that will set off another round of tests and treatments. He also may be trying to find his new "normal". He may be wondering why he isn't like the other kids and why he was so sick and no one else was. It could be any, all, or none of the above.

As you said though, it tends to happen out of frustration. Have you considered having him see a counselor or therapist who specializes in children's chronic illness? He may benefit from it. Or you may benefit from therapy as well. You can also try channeling his anger into productive activities that will help him blow off steam.

Another option would be to try homeschooling your son. We had to pull our son out of school in the 4th grade due to chronic Crohn's that oftentimes got so bad, he missed a lot of school. He thrived in homeschooling and as soon as he was pulled from public school, his Crohn's settled down (with proper diet and medication) and he excelled at all his subjects. Just a thought.

I hope you find some answers for your son. He has already gone through so much.


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