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In Hope Stories

Just 1% of the national research spend has been allocated to this devastating disease

Melissa Ross

Mum-of-one Melissa was just 24 with her whole life ahead of her when she was diagnosed with an inoperable low-grade glioma. Her tumour had an irreversible impact on her mobility and she is now unable to work and, together with her partner Lee, has decided not to have any more children because of her debilitating symptoms. Despite living on daily medication and with chronic pain, Melissa has found strength in her daughter, seven-year-old Millie, and enjoys creating makeup tutorials to distract her from her illness and to connect with like-minded people.

Here is Melissa’s story…

There are no words to describe how it feels to be diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour at 24. Though it’s been the hardest journey, now four years on from my diagnosis, I’ve learned not to take anything for granted and to appreciate the good things in life. I’m blessed to be a mum to Millie. She’s a happy, healthy and smiley little girl who loves school and gymnastics. She is my daily source of inspiration. My partner Lee is fantastic and my mum and dad, who live in my hometown of New Romney, Kent, have always been there for me.

It’s frustrating that while Lee goes to work and does all he can to support us, I cannot do the same. My tumour has a terrible impact on my mobility, to the extent where I have had to walk with a frame. It’s hard enough being a stay-at-home mum; I simply wouldn’t be able to hold down a job. It’s horrible because I still feel so young and would like nothing more than to provide for our family.
Melissa Ross

 “Brain tumours are indiscriminate and can affect anyone at any age. It’s an invisible illness and to many I might seem like the picture of perfect health. That makes it even harder to deal with and I often feel lonely, as if no-one understands what I’m going through.”

Having a keen interest in make-up and beauty, I recently created my own Facebook page, MKR Make-Up and Beauty, where I upload tutorials. It’s a great distraction and, as I often have days where I cannot leave the house, a good way to communicate and feel less isolated. Though I wouldn’t be able to pursue beauty as a profession, it’s a fantastic hobby and a way to connect with like-minded people.

Melissa Ross

“Social media is also a useful tool for reaching out to other patients. As a member of support groups, I find comfort in speaking to people who can relate to what I’m going through and that makes me feel less isolated.”

It took a long time to get my brain tumour diagnosis. Having suffered from dull continuous pain in my knees and lower legs, it was frustrating to be told by a number of doctors over a year and a half that my symptoms were merely a consequence of working late and long hours as a barmaid.

However, over time the pain got worse and it became difficult to lift my legs and walk more than 100 yards. My mum could see I wasn’t walking right and I also developed pain in my neck.
I went back to the doctors and demanded a second opinion. I was finally referred to a consultant at James Padget University Hospital, which lead to further tests, but it was several months before I had a full MRI scan.
The scan revealed ‘something abnormal’ on my brain and I went back for an appointment to discuss the results. I was taken into a consulting room with Lee’s parents Denise and Tom and it was explained that I might have MS, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or more likely a brain tumour. They wanted to refer me to a specialist.
“Further results confirmed I had a low-grade glioma on my brainstem and spinal cord, meaning surgery would not be an option. Later blood tests revealed that some of the cells in the tumour were cancerous, so I would be referred to an oncologist at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital as the only treatment would be radiotherapy.”

I had 30 sessions of radiotherapy over six weeks and once that finished, I needed routine scans. I coped well during treatment but emotionally everything took its toll afterwards. Physically, I was very tired and was wheelchair bound. The steroid medication really affected my sleep.

Melissa Ross

I’m relieved that since my treatment ended, my tumour has remained stable. However, I suffer from debilitating pain and take daily medication to control this. The medication makes me fatigued and as a result caring for Millie is often overwhelming.

“Because of my symptoms, Lee and I have decided not to have any more children. Caring for a baby while living with my illness would be too hard for me to cope with. This makes me appreciate Millie even more and, truly, she is the reason I keep going.”
Lee and I recently bought our first house together, by the seafront in Great Yarmouth, and that’s been a huge positive. It’s very spacious and there’s a downstairs toilet which is a great help on the days when I feel poorly. Millie loves playing in the garden and it’s only a short distance from her school, so she’s able to enjoy her childhood even on the days when I’m in a lot of pain.

I hope that by sharing my story I help to raise awareness of brain tumours. Though my tumour is low-grade, it’s had a huge impact on my life and while I might look fit and well, I’m living with an invisible illness which means I cannot life my life to the full.

Melissa Ross

Melissa Ross
October 2019

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 historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Brain Tumour Research is determined to change this.

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