It’s ten years ago this week that I had to medically retire from my employment as a Staff Nurse at West Cornwall Hospital, and in the process end a 32 year career in nursing.
The reason for having to retire early is a brain tumour that still lives in my head today. It is a meningioma, and is non-malignant but inoperable so, finally after a two and a half year wait, I had radiotherapy back in 2013 at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Kensington, to halt its growth.
So far Algy – the name I gave my tumour – has been halted in his tracks but has still left an amount of damage that includes occasional absence seizures, vertigo and quite severe neuralgia in the right side of my head, mostly in the face.
Living with the impact
The last ten years have not always been easy, with depression caused in part from endless battles with the Department of Work and Pensions. I gave up the battle after five years as it was severely affecting my mental health which included suicidal thoughts in my darkest moments.
However I consider myself to be lucky. I have come to know so many who have not been so fortunate. There are over 120 different types of brain tumour and it remains one of the most common cancer killers in children and adults under the age of forty. It can be difficult to diagnose and so much more is needed in terms of research and care.
But one of the things I have been able to do over the years is volunteering, and that includes being an ambassador for Brain Tumour Support. I can still give my time, and although pain, depression and fatigue can sometimes get in the way, that has not stopped me yet.
Heather with her radiotherapy mask
Our Support Professionals have experience of problems that can be faced around employment, benefits and finance, and can offer practical help and guidance in this area.
If you or someone you love is affected by a brain tumour and would like to speak to someone about issues like this please contact our team
Helping to campaign
One of my roles is to attend the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Brain Tumours (APPGBT) in Westminster and report back to the charity on the proceedings. My local MP Derek Thomas is, by coincidence, chair of the group, and from there much is done to raise awareness about brain tumours and the dire need for better funding for research and care for those affected.
I have learned so much from these meetings, and some of it utterly heart breaking. Some is hopeful though, and not everyone with a brain tumour has an automatic death sentence hanging over them. But there are still numerous problems with health, relationships, work, disability and other issues that can be as individual as the type of tumour the patient has.
Putting experience to good use
Most of us who volunteer with the charity have our own experiences with brain tumours which means we understand a lot of that. And although I of course wish my nursing career hadn’t been cut short, I love volunteering because I feel useful again and can help support others going through what is a terrifying ordeal.
Heather Taylor-Nicholson, March 2021
Heather, Derek Thomas MP, and Tina Mitchell Skinner, Brain Tumour Support CEO, at APPGBT