“One of the only things I remember was talking to the anesthesiologist about ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’.”
He started to experience headaches, dizziness and pain behind his eyes at the beginning of June of this year. In a huge whirlwind, he went from diagnosis to emergency surgery to remove the tumor in just a few days.
Tom went to his GP on the advice of a nurse while working as a police detention officer and he felt dizzy. The GP suggested he see an optician, and when the optician found the backs of Tom’s eyes to be red and swollen, he was immediately sent to the Bristol Eye Hospital eye clinic. Although the optician told him not to worry and that he probably needed eye drops, Tom would soon discover that the swelling was a sign of pressure on his brain that could be caused by a tumor.
This was unfortunately confirmed after Tom underwent various eye tests and a CT scan with contrast dye at the nearby Bristol Royal Infirmary. He was then transferred by ambulance to the Neurology Department at Southmead Hospital for treatment.
Tom said: âThe optician checked my eyes and looked a little panicked. Still, I went to the eye hospital thinking it was all simple and I had no idea that anything was seriously wrong. I didn’t feel like I was in the right place when I was then sent to the hospital majors department. It all happened so fast.
âYou could have heard a fly fly when a neurosurgeon told me at 11:30 pm that night that I had a brain tumor.
âI called my partner and we both got teary eyed when I told him I was going to have a biopsy and a drain placed in my skull to relieve the pressure. I thought it might be. the last conscious time that I spoke to her.
“A strange memory that will stay with me forever was being brought to the operating room at 1 a.m. and talking to the BBC’s RuPaul’s Drag Race anesthesiologist because she had one.” badge on its lanyard. We discussed the American series and the upcoming British series. I said badges were only available to UK Series winners and she suggested I look for one on Etsy right before they knocked me out.
After further MRI scans, Tom underwent surgery two weeks later, which successfully removed 95% of the tumor, which turned out to be a neurocytoma. He had a seizure following the operation, the only one he has had, although he is now taking anti-epileptic drugs which are gradually reduced in dosage over time. After also spending time in intensive care and also undergoing another round of MRI scans, Tom was able to return home on June 23. He is now on a supervised treatment program and he has MRI scans every six months to monitor his condition for any changes.
Tom said: âI was so grateful to come home that day in June – it was during the heatwave so I had very hot days in the hospital. I have found that my type of brain tumor is very rare. We don’t know much about it. But, due to the size of my tumor, the doctors think it might have grown in the past five years. It’s very scary to think of especially when, during that time, I was doing physically demanding jobs, got a full truck license, worked for a transport company, and drove offenders into custody across the country.
âSince then, I’ve had good days and I’ve had bad days. I can’t drive now, what you don’t realize is such a gigantic freedom until it is gone. The scans showed the tumor has not grown – and I will have it checked again in March with the next scan. I still have some aches and pains and a few headaches, but it’s nothing a pain reliever can’t fix now.
Tom credited The Brain Tumor Charity with providing him with invaluable help and support to get him through the ordeal he has been through since his diagnosis.
He added: âThe Brain Tumor Charity has helped me tremendously, especially the Facebook support groups. When you are diagnosed you are suddenly thrown into a world you know very little about and are supposed to deal with it on your own. Support groups provide a place for you to ask all of these questions and get answers from people who are going through the same thing. I was worried about the results of the MRI, the DVLA and the pain in my head. You can also read other people’s messages and take comfort in the fact that you are not alone.
âThe BRIAN app is also fantastic. I find the daily recordings and reminders that you can set up when you need to take medication or make appointments very useful. Honestly, I don’t think I would have coped so well with everything that has happened to me without The Brain Tumor Charity.