Here is Victoria’s story…
My memories of being diagnosed with a brain tumour are sketchy and I only remember snippets, as if falling asleep during a film. Though I had a successful craniotomy, I still suffer from debilitating seizures, which could happen at any moment, without warning, and as a result I had to give up my work in the travel industry – a job that I loved.
Despite the difficult times, I qualified as a hypnotherapist and meditation instructor less than a year after my diagnosis. I recently set up my own online business, Naturally Calm Therapy, which teaches people to relax through a series of around 30-minute podcasts which are available to purchase through my website.
My diagnosis began quite inconspicuously. It all started while I was on the phone to a good friend one dreary, rainy walk home. I was sounding odd and I couldn’t get my words out. I hung up my phone in frustration and after sending a series of strange, gobbledegook text messages trying to apologise for my ‘funny five minutes’, my friend raised the alarm and contacted one of my daughters, who arranged for me to be taken to Derriford Hospital.
After an hour or so waiting, I was called into see the doctor. And that’s when the terror started. I forgot my name, my best friend’s name and struggled to understand what was happening or why. As I realised something was dreadfully wrong, I burst into tears.
After my daughters arrived, I had a CT scan which revealed a tumour on my brain, but I don’t remember any of that. I was very confused and kept saying how I ‘didn’t like this hotel’, not realising I was actually in hospital. My daughters travelled back to the hospital the next morning and I felt overwhelmed with relief to see them. And then started further tests: an MRI scan; 20 minutes of being stuck in a tube with a mirror, being shown a pretty picture and the radio playing Ed Sheeran. I cried halfway through the scan but this time it was tears of joy, for the amazing jobs I’ve had, the beautiful places I’d been and for my fantastic friends and family.
“The scan showed that I had a low-grade meningioma, occupying a third of the left-hand side of my brain. It was growing into the parts of my frontal lobe which control my personality. Along came more and more tears.”
Just a few days before the operation I suffered my first grand-mal seizure on the way home from a spa day with my daughters. The girls had noticed I wasn’t quite myself but I insisted I was fine. I remember getting in the passenger seat but approaching a big roundabout I was being strapped into an ambulance and taken back to Derriford Hospital. The next thing I remember was 3 days later waking up from my surgery.
“Looking back, I can’t believe that the tumour had been growing for around 15 years, to the size of a small orange. I laughed as my friends said ‘we always thought you were a bit odd’ and I questioned whether my bolshie personality was down to the tumour or adjusting to survive as the only sister of three brothers.”
The surgery, which lasted 10 hours, was successful, leaving just a tiny bit of the tumour and I recovered well. Life since the operation has been at times amazing and at times terrifying. My seizures mean I’m medically unfit to work and this is a hard pill to swallow for me as I’ve been working since I was 14. I loved my job in the travel industry. I got to meet amazing people, who are still great friends, and I worked in incredible places all around the world, exploring different cultures, learning about history and seeing so many wonderful sights.
I couldn’t just sit around and do nothing. In August 2017 I started studying online courses in meditation and mindfulness, naturopathy and hypnotherapy. Having passed my assessments, I set up ‘Naturally Calm Therapy’. I want to help people to control their fear, pain and stress by learning to relax, through hypnotherapy and guided meditation, and I believe that practising these techniques can bring about great health benefits. My business gave me something to focus on and allowed me to develop my interests in natural healing and health. I was grateful for this sense of purpose and also for my amazing group of family and friends, particularly my amazing grandchildren. They lift me up when I need it, bring me back down to Earth and are always there when I need them, the adults in my life saved me physically but the children saved me mentally, they make me laugh when I don’t think there is anything to laugh at.
“Before my diagnosis I was unaware of just how many people are affected by brain tumours. I couldn’t believe that the disease kills more children and adults under the age of 40, yet has historically received just 1% of the national spend on cancer.”
Having heard about the Brain Tumour Research charity through a support group at Derriford Hospital, I decided to take on a 150-mile fundraising walk over a month in June last year. I raised £700 and I’m keen to do more for this vital cause. I hope that by sharing my story I can inspire other patients who may be struggling to come to terms with their diagnosis.
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.