When Waterlooville resident Richard Preston was diagnosed with a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), he was told he could have as little as two years to live. But now, five years on Richard is doing well and will soon be celebrating his 50th birthday – a day he thought he would never see. On average, less than 20% of brain tumour patients survive for five years or more post-diagnosis.
Here is Richard’s story…
There are four categories of brain tumour and mine is the worst one, grade 4. I don’t drink, smoke and I’m otherwise fit and healthy, looking 10 years younger than I actually am. I try not to get too frustrated about my situation because there’s nothing I can do to fix it.
My diagnosis came in November 2013, after suffering persistent headaches and feeling as if something was not right in the back of my left eye. I was advised by my doctor to visit the opticians and, thankfully, I was taken very seriously. The optician
found something in the back of my eye and an appointment was made for me the same afternoon at the Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth.
At the hospital, a CT scan revealed a growth, the size of a large apricot, in my brain. I was told that it was likely to be cancer and surgery would be my best option.
"I had a five-hour, high-risk operation just five days later, which fortunately had no serious implications to my movement or speech. After surgery, the tumour was confirmed as a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) – a highly aggressive type of brain cancer – and I was given a bleak prognosis of just two to five years. Because I don’t swear, I said ‘fluff’"
I also endured 11 gruelling months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, during 2014, which were exhausting. After my treatment was finished, I had a routine MRI every six months, which became a yearly scan when there was no sign of my tumour. Now, I’m one of the 20% of brain tumour patients who survive five years or more post-diagnosis.
When I was given such a dire prognosis, I thought ‘stuff that’ and decided to live. I married Wendy, my partner of 25 years, just weeks after finishing radiotherapy, in March 2014, and that was very special. I was over the moon when my daughter, Jay, who lives in America, flew across the pond to join us on the day, and the picture of me, Wendy, Jay and her daughter Haley is one of my favourite photos.
Wendy and I also went on several holidays, including a Mediterranean cruise in 2014, a trip around the German castles and travelling to see the Terracotta Warriors in China in 2017. And, just last year, we embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Hawaii. It’s always been an ambition of mine to see an erupting volcano and we were able to witness just that during a helicopter ride around the volcano. When my step-mum saw the picture of me in the helicopter she said she’d never seen me smile so much in my life and this just goes to show how happy I was.
I’ve developed closer relationships with my family members since my diagnosis. My dad was so supportive when I lost my licence and would drive me everywhere. Now I am back behind the wheel, he still invites me to meals and events and we get on very well.
I remember googling my type of tumour and just thinking ‘this is horrendous’. But now I know I can’t change anything, so I try not to dwell on the stark statistics. I like to keep busy, not only by travelling, but by pursuing hobbies. I’m fascinated by computers and I like to fix them to keep distracted. Though I’m no longer able to work, my employers at KCOM have been very supportive and I receive long-term sick pay, which covers half my salary and critical-illness insurance paid off the rest of my mortgage
"As the tumour is in my frontal lobe, my short-term memory is affected. I also get very tired during the day so have to take an afternoon nap. My friends like to joke that this is because I’m getting older, but I know it’s because of my illness."
In January 2019, Wendy and I threw a party at Chichester Park Hotel and invited more than 65 members of our family, friends and work colleagues. It was Wendy’s idea, as I try not to focus too much on the dates.
"There were four main reasons for partying: for surviving five years after my diagnosis; to celebrate Wendy’s 48th birthday in February and my 50th in March, and to mark our fifth wedding anniversary."
I have a scan every September and I try to look at it as just another day. When I get the results in October, I like to book a holiday to look forward to, and this year is no exception. I was never the type to have a bucket list but being diagnosed with a GBM changes everything. And I’m keen to celebrate the fact I’m still here. Wendy and I will be travelling to Cambodia and Vietnam for two weeks at the end of August and I am very excited to see the Angkor Wat temple. Because I can’t change my situation, I’m determined to make the most of every day I have left. All I can do now is collect memories.
The views or opinions expressed within are not necessarily those of Brain Tumour Research. This content has been shared for information purposes only. Brain Tumour Research does not recommend or endorse any particular treatment. If you have or suspect you may have a health problem, you should consult your doctor or other suitably qualified medical professional. Our member charity brainstrust can provide additional information on treatment options.