Imagine waking up in the hospital and having no recollection whatsoever of the past few weeks of your life. Imagine waking up and being forced to rely on photographs and specialized aids to help jog your memory. And imagine being unaware of whether or not your life will ever return to normal.
This is the unfortunate reality for 17-year-old Charlotte Reid, who had her memory erased in order to remove a grape-sized tumor that had been growing on her brain. In the weeks leading up to the life-changing procedure, Reid had been experiencing excruciating headaches and found herself having problems with her vision.
After over-the-counter medication proved to be ineffective and doctors officially diagnosed Charlotte with the 3cm tumor, Charlotte’s mother Angie decided to go forward with the treatment, which she considered to be “a necessary evil.”
“Her life has been turned upside down by the side effects, which are huge and life-changing,” she explained. “At the time, we knew she had to have the treatment to save her life. There was no choice but it has had a serious impact. She won’t remember what day of the week it is, or even what she had for lunch.” Angie went on to say that Charlotte’s treatment has made it so that “she never looks forward to things, because she doesn’t remember they are going to happen,” adding, “It’s quite difficult for me as a mum. I spend a lot of time answering questions for her.”
Even though the treatment successfully decreased the size of Charlotte’s tumor, her mother explained that she often wonders whether or not it was the right thing to do. This is understandable, considering the fact that Charlotte’s life will most likely never be the same. As a mother, that has to be something that weighs heavily on her shoulders. In the end, though, Angie decided that the proton therapy was their only real option to prevent Charlotte’s brain tumor from growing (RELATED: Father with terminal brain cancer destroyed tumor by cutting carb intake).
There is a significant difference between conventional radiotherapy and proton beam therapy, which is the treatment that Charlotte received that ended up wiping her memory. While conventional radiotherapy uses beams of radiation to target and destroy cancerous cells, proton beam therapy kills cancerous cells through the use of subatomic particles. Also unlike conventional radiotherapy, proton beam therapy causes far less damage to the skin tissue because the beam stops upon impact with the cancerous cells.
Initially, after receiving the proton beam cancer treatment in 2015, Charlotte seemed to be doing well. However, by December of that year, the 17-year-old girl was beginning to show signs of fatigue and confusion. “Many of her problems can be controlled with medication, but it is constant trial and error,” said her mother. “Her vision won’t come back and we don’t know what will happen with her memory.”
A spokesperson for the National Health Service explained that while the possible side effects of the proton beam therapy vary depending on which part of the body the procedure is being conducted on, this particular kind of treatment generally results in fewer side effects than others. The reason for this is because of how precise the proton beam is, allowing it to shrink the cancerous tumor without damaging too many healthy cells.
Still, even though the side effects can vary, it’s very strange that Charlotte remembers everything before the treatment but nothing since then. Just like with every other medical mystery, there is a chance that the doctors or even the federal government knew more than they originally let on. But even if they really weren’t aware that Charlotte’s memory would be wiped, it’s always a possibility that the technology demonstrated by the proton beam could potentially be used in the future to intentionally erase the memories of those who post a threat to the state. Of course, this is just a theory, but at the very least it is worth considering.