When Wolverhampton dad-of-two Kevin Pemberton, 38, began suffering from sinus problems, he never imagined a brain tumour was the root of his symptoms. Having faced debulking surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy since his diagnosis in April 2019, Kevin is now back at work as a management accountant. While coming to terms with the fact his illness is incurable, Kevin is trying to keep life as normal as possible for his wife Michelle and their two daughters, 11-year-old Jasmine and Sofia, six.
Here is Kevin’s story…
My brain tumour is both a blessing and a curse. While the past few months have been filled with hospital appointments and gruelling treatment, I appreciate my life so much more. At the age of 38, living with such a serious illness is a roller-coaster journey I never imagined I’d have to take.
I cannot thank my wife Michelle and our daughters Jasmine, 11, and six-year-old Sofia, enough for the support they have shown me. They have been amazing throughout such an uncertain time and they have an unwavering strength. My friends, colleagues and parents have also helped me through the darkest of moments to fight back and live my life the best way I possibly can.
“I’m feeling better now I’ve opened up to my daughters about my illness, although it was a very difficult conversation. I felt like I couldn’t be myself around them until I’d been honest about what was happening.”
We were enjoying a normal family life and I was working as a management accountant when I started suffering from blocked sinuses. I was prescribed a nasal decongestant which didn’t alleviate my symptoms and after several trips to my GP, I was sent for an MRI scan at New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton.
A few days after the scan, a consultant phoned me to say that there was an ‘abnormal lesion’ on my brain. I was shocked at how blasé he was over the phone but could never have imagined the news that was to follow. Two weeks later, I was told that the lesion was in fact a brain tumour and I needed debulking surgery. It’s a diagnosis I’m still struggling to come to terms with.
My operation was booked in for April 2019 at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QE) in Birmingham. It lasted four hours and I was surprised at how quick my recovery was. By the next day, I was back home and I owe my life to the excellent neurosurgeons at the QE.
Sadly, in a follow-up appointment after the operation, I was told that my tumour was in fact an incurable grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma. This came as a huge shock as the doctors had thought that my tumour was low-grade. I was flabbergasted and couldn’t process the fact that there was no cure for my illness.
“When I returned home, I had a panic attack. My world fell apart and I couldn’t understand why this was happening to me. I also needed radiotherapy and chemotherapy and I was worried about how the treatment would affect me.”
I started a six-week course of radiotherapy on 19 May and it was daunting to be fitted with a face mask, a stark reminder of how serious my condition was. I felt very fatigued and the hardest part was losing my hair. Chemotherapy wasn’t so bad; I took the tablets one hour before my radiotherapy appointments
I’ve just started my first of 12 cycles of maintenance chemotherapy, which is due to end in August 2020, and have scans every three months. My latest scan has shown no change in my tumour, which is a relief.
“I returned to work on 15 July 2019 and that’s been a good distraction. I’m enjoying the sense of normality and routine that being back at work brings.”
I’m relieved at how well my daughters have coped and I’m determined to keep things as normal as possible for them. Jasmine, like me, loves football and we have a season ticket pass for Wolverhampton Wanderers Football Club. She’s looking forward to being a mascot on 29 September and I will be so proud of her when that big day arrives.
As a family, fundraising has been a positive outlet during such a tough time. I remember when I first received my diagnosis and, in the darkest of times, turning to Michelle and saying how I wanted to help others. We decided to organise a fundraising night for the charity Brain Tumour Research and will host bucket collections around Wolverhampton.
“We’re overwhelmed to have raised more than £2,300 for our fundraising evening, which takes place at Molineux Stadium, home of Wolverhampton Wanderers, on 25 October. We’re hoping to sell all 250 tickets and highlights of the event will include a disco and a raffle. It will be a fantastic way to raise awareness of this dreadful disease which kills more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.”
I have an incredible wife and two beautiful young daughters. I want to enjoy my life with them for many years to come and I want to see my girls grow up. I’ve started to embrace my brain tumour journey instead of living in fear of it and I hope that in sharing my story I raise awareness of this horrendous disease.
Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age. What’s more, they kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer... yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
Brain Tumour Research is determined to change this.
Together we will find a cure.