Hey my name is Sam and I beat cancer! Because of where the brain tumour was in the brain, it gave me symptoms which helped me to find out that I had something wrong.
I was at college finishing part of my coursework for the course I was doing on the computer, I was staring at the monitor and slowly over a few days I started to get a sort-of double vision. I thought it’s just me on the computers too much trying to complete all my work in time, but then after a few more days I started to get headaches and my eyes were getting worse.
I was at work with my head on the table so my colleagues said take the day off and try and get an eye appointment; which I did. The optician said there saw no visible swelling but put in a referral in a few months’ time. But by then it was too late, I started to get stronger headaches, feeling super tired and being sick. My mum took me to the hospital because she could tell something wasn’t right, but when I got seen I passed all my motor tests and the doctors passed it off as migraines and cluster headaches. A few days later I was in head horrible pain and hungry, but every time I was eating, I would throw it back up five minutes later. My mum took me again and the doctors said the same something. My mum and I went to the hospital three times just to get the same answers off the doctors. One morning I was laying in my bed till 6pm then my mum waking me up to eat something, so I went down had a bit of food, finished it and just threw it all up. Mum then had a said something isn’t right and called the paramedics. A little while later he came and checked me out, he did all the motor tests and passed them, he said to my mum he thought I’ve drunk too much and I have a massive hangover, but my mum said there’s something else and talked to the paramedic for a while, telling him everything that is happening with me. Ten minutes after he left my mum got a call back from him saying he thinks there is something else going on. My mum put me in the car and took me to hospital and this time they gave me a CAT scan which showed up the real problem. I had a brain tumour it was roughly three centimetres in diameter slap bang in the middle and just under in the brain. They said the reason I’m getting these powerful headaches, falling asleep and being sick all the time was because of a symptom known as hydrocephalus. The tumour was blocking my brain fluid from leaving the body, creating pressure which was pressing against my brain causing my headaches and sickness.
Finding out the cause they moved me to Queens hospital in Romford but the last thing I remember was the paramedics putting me in the ambulance, everything else was in bits. What happened was the pressure got so much I blackout and remember nothing else. My mum told me that I became irresponsive and was at a near-seizure while at Romford, the doctors took me down for emergency surgery to give me what was called an External ventricular drain or EVD for short which was a tube put in my head to drain the fluid from my head and relieve the pressure. They had to do this because the tumour was blocking off my ventricle which is where the fluid does to drain. The next thing I remember was waking up in a hospital bed with the most amazing sense of relief, finally after going to the hospital multiple times over three weeks I had no pain, it felt great and I was starving. I don’t know if it was the hunger or they did good food but I was eating it all. The next step was to create another way for the brain fluid to leave my head without the need of the EVD, so what they planned was to drill a hole through part of my brain to allow the fluid to bypass around the tumour and leave down the spine. I was in hospital for two week for the wound to heal and to make the hole doesn’t collapse on its self.
After a little while I had referral to Macmillan in London to see just what this tumour actually was. They did blood tests to make sure there was nothing else. I got sent back a week later so I went with my mum and aunt. I sat down on one of the treatment chairs and wait for someone to come. A doctor came up to me, my mum and aunt, put the curtain around the chair and said what it was. He said to us this was a brain tumour and the reason I was still having the double vision was because the tumour was pressing on part of my optic nerves stopping a proper signal get to my brain. He also said to us it was malignant. When he said that all I remember was my mum breaking down in tears, head on chest hugging me, my aunt left the room for a little while for my mum and I just sat there. The doctor said I will need to have chemotherapy, surgery and radiotherapy over a set course of time which they’ll plan over time.
First thing first was I had to have a pic-line placed in my arm, a pic-line is a tube which goes down my vein straight to the heart, they use this to strap the chemo line to while I go through chemotherapy. A few weeks later we were told what was planned. I was to have four cycles of chemo at UCH, a week at a time for three weeks. So I would have a week chemo, non-stop from Monday to Saturday then have two weeks at home before I start my next cycle.
When I got to UCH I was in the T12 ward which was the children and young people’s ward. I met a few other younger people also fighting cancer and we all got along quite well. I got to pick my bed and there was also a side bed for my mum to sleep next to mine. The nurses took my blood to make sure I was able to start my chemo, and then a few hours I was lying in the bed with chemo passing through a machine to pump it through me. The treatment I had lasted Monday to Saturday, non-stop. Then two weeks at home. I had to have four cycles of this and I found it difficult, constantly tired and week but the other people in the ward were walking round barely looking weak at all. Everyone there were so strong it was unbelievable.
The next step was surgery at the London National Hospital. My family and I drove up there, my mum, brother, sister and my mum’s boyfriend and they would stay in a charity hotel called Pauls House while I stayed at the National until I was well enough. When I got there they showed me to my bed and said my surgery will be the next day. So I got my bags unpacked and said hi to the other people in the beds around me, they were all nice people but no one my age, they were all older. My mum made sure I was all settle and they all stayed till 10 O’clock which was when they had to go. Considering I had surgery in just a few hours I fell asleep quite easily I just kept on waking up through the night. The next morning I stayed in the bed until 10 O’clock, when my family came down then an hour I was sent down to surgery. They took me in a room said that I’ll be put under and will be roughly an eight hour surgery, they put me on a bed and put in a cannula to put me under, I laid back and just fell asleep. Eight-ish hours later I woke not prepared for what happened, the surgery was a success, they managed to cut out half of the tumour what was left appeared to be dead, but because they went through the back of my head they go around part of the brain known as the cerebellum which is the part of the brain which gets lazy when you drink and your speech can become slurred and that’s what happened to me quite badly, also with my double vision, I was staring at people talking like a slurring baby, it came across as if I had a bit of brain damaged. I was ok it was because when doing surgery, going round the cerebellum it’s being pushed around which has given me the slurring. I stayed in the emergency ward for a few days to keep an eye on me. The family came down and ask how I was feeling, my mum worried as to why my speech had gone slurred and the doctors’ saying it’s the surgery. Over time my slurring got better but I still had problems looking up.
After a while at home resting, the next step was Radiotherapy which was 35 factions for treatment, Monday to Saturday for 7 weeks every morning at UCL. Before I started my radiotherapy I had to have a face mask made for me to stop my head from moving while having it treatment. The mask was very weird as it was just a sheet of plastic which they put in warm water to soften it then press it around my face firmly and I was just lying there while it hardened. It felt quite weird.
When I had my first faction I laid on I table with the radio machine above my head. The nurses lined me up, put my face mask on and they started the machine. It went behind me shooting rays down my spine. I felt nothing, I just lied there with my eyes closed, but when it went over the front of my head the rays hit something that made me smell something which was horrible. It was a unique smell and it was not nice. For the first two weeks I was feeling really sick after the treatment, but I found after something to eat and drink the sickness feeling went. I had to do this therapy 35 times, my mum went with me from Essex to London every time and back. The final day of treatment I said goodbye to the people down in the radiotherapy ward and my mum and I went home. On the 12th February 2014 the treatment was finally over and I felt relived.
I feel amazingly lucky, the amount ofsupport from my family and friends, I don’t think I could have done this without them and I’m so grateful. Also from my diagnoses in to the start and end of treatment was less than 12 months which I think is just amazing how well medicine has come to beating cancer. We are so close to it we just need that little bit more to beat cancer for good. WE CAN BEAT CANCER!