When David Grant was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour, he was determined to live long enough to see his young daughter grow up. He tells his story.
"I was in Belfast on August 10th 2005 and was about to chair a meeting when a headache came on. I made a quick trip to Boots and spent 16p on a packet of paracetamol and everything was back to normal.
"Back home in south London, I woke on Sunday morning vomiting, after a string of headaches that week. The next day I wasn’t well enough to go to work so, rather than sit it out, something told me to go to my local medical practice. After explaining my symptoms to a nurse, I was told to try a dairy-free diet for 24 hours and if that didn’t help, then to come back and see the doctor.
"My wife soon took me back to the GP after I began twitching badly and becoming increasingly incoherent. I was swiftly admitted to St Mary’s Hospital in Sidcup, where they did a CT scan and discussed a number of possibilities, including a tumour. My scan was then sent to King’s in London and they confirmed it was a tumour, so I was admitted there to have it removed.
"Having spent my career as a project manager searching for solutions, I was lifted by the news that a solution had been found for the problem. I was transferred to King’s and the operation was scheduled for the next day. Everyone was positive and motivating. My wife and I were warned of the risk of a brain haemorrhage, so she was more than relieved to hear my voice seven hours later.
"But what they had found was malignant, which meant a 12 to 15-month survival. I was told I would need to go on a six-week course of radiotherapy, but even that would only keep the tumour away for 12 months.
"On the way home from the hospital, my wife and I discussed my survival plan. I made two pledges that day: to walk my daughter to her first day at school and to survive well into 2014, so that I might care for my daughter for at least a year longer than my grandfather did for his.
"I started the radiotherapy and chemotherapy programme, but was told not to complete the sixth week of temozolomide [a chemotherapy medication]. Tests had shown my platelet count was dangerously low. I was devastated by the news, as I was still in the "12-month zone". Three months later, however, I was back on the cycle, only this time on almost double the dosage, for one week a month for six months.
"On July 23rd 2006, I received my last dose of cancer medication and a month later, my end of treatment scan. I speculated on the results – had the treatment worked? Would I still be around to honour the pledges I had made almost a year ago?
"I was taken aback by the reaction of the oncology team at St Thomas’ and remember the words "fab", "excellent" and "couldn’t be better". The sheer enthusiasm was striking, as statistics show that the prognosis for the vast majority of people diagnosed with a malignant glioblastoma multiforme is 12 to 18 months, with current available treatment usually just helping to give a few extra weeks of life. I was told there was a likelihood the tumour would return, but hopefully we were looking at a year without symptoms.
"On September 13th 2006, after 277 days off sick, I returned to work at the Royal Bank of Scotland on a gradual return to work programme. I soon turned 50 and was eligible for early retirement and was offered a redundancy package; that, paired with the thoughts of "is this my last Christmas? Birthday? Summer?" etc, made it too good an opportunity to miss. That summer, my wife, daughter and I took a long summer holiday. I returned to an email from an ex-colleague inviting me to help on a project, and I found myself back working that September, in a role I remained in until July 2013.
"Since getting the good news over seven years ago, I’ve had regular six-monthly MRI scans. After my most recent one, my consultant claimed I was part of a small group that was "simply thriving" – my most encouraging words yet.
"My survival so far should give hope to others. With the medical advances that have been made since 2005 and the progress in clinical trials, the statistics are showing glimmers of hope. My motivation throughout it all came from my lovely daughter, who is now 11 years old. As I promised back in 2005, I got to walk her to her first day at school – a moment I will treasure forever. I’m looking forward to the rest of the milestones I get to see her through and sharing the new milestones we set.
"Nevertheless, every time I have another MRI scan, my family and I, like so many thousands of other brain tumour patients across the UK, have to go through the trauma of waiting for the results and wondering if it's going to be good news or bad. Had I kept still enough? But you can never tell. I always say to myself and others, 'Just believe in yourself!'."
This case history was provided by Brain Tumour Research.