The rundown is as follows: 7 things I wish people knew about brain tumours
Quite often people use the phrases ‘at least it isn’t cancer’ and ‘benign is fine’ to describe benign tumours. Yes, it is great news that something isn’t fast growing and spreading uncontrollably, however benign when it comes to brain tumours is far from fine. Benign tumours can also cause serious symptoms, blind you, cause speech problems, seizures and can also kill you. Grade 1 and grade 2 tumours can also turn malignant if not treated. It’s all a bit blurry when it comes to categorising brain tumours. I’ve learned quickly to take things very seriously and it’s better to describe benign ones as ‘low grade’ as they can also be as harmful as malignant ones. 1. Benign isn’t fine.
At risk of grumbling (but hey, it’s a blog, I can only say how I feel), even though I may look OK – give or take a dodgy eyeball, inside I am not. I have had what can be described as a permanent hangover over the last year and live day-to-day with symptoms such as a stabbing pain in my head, blurry vision, dry eyes and a whooshing tinnitus / high pressure feeling. Every night I am scared to go to sleep, because when I lie down, the pressure all goes to my head. Then there’s fatigue and anxiety. Some days are better, some days are worse, but they are a permanent reminder and something I have to deal with. 2. I may look OK, but inside I’m not!
A meningioma is a tumour that arises from the meninges. The meninges are the membranes that surround your brain and spinal cord. Even though they are on the ‘outside’ part of the brain, they are categorised as brain tumours because they can compress and squeeze the adjacent brain nerves and vessels. As meningiomas grow, they invade your brain space. Pesky blighters. 3. Meningiomas are ‘proper’ brain tumours.
4. Finding support (outside of Dr Internet!) is possible.When I was first diagnosed, the consultant told me to steer away from looking things up on Google. This as you know is impossible for a lot of people, and a lot of information is available. Some more reliable than others. However, your best bet (in my opinion), is to trust the information from your neurosurgeon – and also the other healthcare professionals on your team. Also brain tumour charities (such as Brainstrust, Brain Tumour Support and The Brain Tumour Charity) provide such an important service helping brain tumour patients and their carers.
I only learned of this word since my diagnosis. Seems as though if you have a tumour, you will most definitely experience scanxiety. As Crowded House would say, it’s only natural! When you have a brain tumour, it is likely that you will have regular scans and quite often for the rest of your life. Each scan brings with it the anxiety of being confined in the MRI scanner. Having your head in the head cage, the added complication of wearing a mask in 5. Scanxiety is real.coronavirus times (I cannot stress how claustrophobic this is!) and worries about having the cannula put in your arm and being injected with a special dye. One that makes you feel rubbish and you have to flush out with water each time.
Then, you often have a long wait until you get to speak with your consultant. Has the tumour grown? What will this mean? How will it affect treatment? It never seems to get any easier either. You can always go with the thought no news is good news, and if it was really bad they wouldn’t let you leave the hospital, but sometimes this isn’t always true. Emergency or no emergency, monitoring scans could produce good or bad results.
I’ve recently been watching the brain surgery on Channel 4. I wondered whether I should at first, but then I realised that I watched every episode of One Born Every Minute before childbirth and I found that beneficial knowing what might happen in labour. So maybe it would make me more confident about going under the knife! However, brain surgery is so complex. 6. Brain surgery is petrifying.
I still don’t know whether I will have to have an operation. Of course, they told me at first they were going to operate but then said it was too risky because of its location (greater risk of blindness, stroke, paralysis and death) so better to wait and monitor the tumour’s growth. My healthcare professionals have told me that early surgery may prevent me from going blind but also may cause me to go blind. Also, imagine preparing yourself for such a life-changing operation.
It’s something that I’ve definitely thought over and thought through but hoping that it won’t happen to me any time soon. The thought is petrifying. Especially as I’ve got a family / young daughter too!
“Brave”, “warrior”, “inspirational”. These are some words that are used to describe those with a serious condition. Even though I appreciate why people say this, it’s not expected. . We have no choice but to cope with what life throws at us. Is that true bravery or is it just learning how to cope? I don’t see myself as a warrior. I didn’t choose to go into battle and I’m certainly not equipped to fight it. 7. Description tags are hard to take.
As someone from one of my support groups put it, the phrase ‘winning the battle’ is misleading. If someone ‘loses the battle’ does that mean they haven’t fought hard enough? Of course not! Inspirational? I hope that my truths in describing life with a brain tumour go to help people suffering from one and also people who want to learn more. Either as a carer of someone else or to learn about how to spot a brain tumour or learn more about them.
Being diagnosed with a brain tumour is a long and winding road. I know mine, even if operated on won’t be able to be completely removed and I know that it won’t shrink or get better by itself. So I just have to hope that symptoms are managed long term, threat of serious problems is spotted promptly and any treatment goes ok. I know that with the support of my family, friends and the wider brain tumour community, it’s about getting on with life and learning to live with it! Wear Grey. Choose Grey. Change Lives.
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