After collapsing at work, Alan Thomas was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He tells his story.
"The first time I became aware that something could be wrong was when I was 29. I had a seizure and collapsed in my office. When I was taken to the local hospital for a CT scan, doctors could see something on my brain. An MRI scan showed it was a tumour.
"The tumour was found to be a grade 2 astrocytoma in the right temporal lobe and was quite close to the surface. On one hand, this was good news, because it was relatively slow growing but, on the other hand, there’s no cure for it.
"The first treatment I had was brachytherapy, where a radioactive seed is planted into the centre of the tumour and then removed after four weeks. This shrank the tumour. After that, I had MRI scans on a six-monthly basis.
"During 2002 and 2003 I had clean MRI scans. The tumour was still there, of course, but it wasn’t growing. Then in 2004 I had a scan that showed that the tumour had regrown and, because of the rate at which it had grown, it had become more aggressive. It was now a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM).
"During this time I’d been doing a lot of research and had gone to see two specialists privately. I’d discovered that one of them was offering a new treatment with two relatively new chemotherapy drugs, so I shifted my treatment to his unit in Birmingham.
"I had a craniotomy in 2004. This involves removing as much of the tumour as possible and implanting gel "wafers" that contain the chemotherapy drug Gliadel into the tumour bed. I also had external radiotherapy. Luckily, I recovered quite quickly from the surgery. I was in hospital for about four days afterwards and then I was allowed to go home.
"Until September 2006 I was clear, then a scan revealed that the tumour had regrown, so in March 2007 I had further surgery, and the Gliadel wafers were implanted again. I also had chemotherapy of five days on and 23 days off, and I’m still having it. I’m now on my 13th round. It’s tiring, but it’s a fairly non-toxic chemotherapy and I’m lucky in that I’ve been able to tolerate it.
"I've had eight or nine head operations in total, which obviously isn’t pleasant but, due to the nature of the illness, it had to be done.
"I just get on with living for now. I got married in 2005 and I still work, although part-time at present. I have scans every two months and chemotherapy every month, and that’s how life is for me right now."
This case history was provided by The Brain Tumour Charity.