Brain tumour, benign (non-cancerous)
In September 2003,Joanne Glazier Reitano was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. She talks about how living with a brain tumour has affected her.
"The first sign I had that things werent right was when I kept 'zoning out'. At first, I wasnt really aware that it was happening but it was like I was just switching off from the real world. The incidents probably only lasted a minute, and I wouldnt lose consciousness, but Id 'come back' to the real world and would have completely lost track of what I was saying and doing.
I put it down to stress. There had been lots of redundancies at work and it had generally been an incredibly stressful year. But I began to be quite concerned when I 'zoned out' in the middle of a presentation I was giving. It was obvious to everyone who was there that something was wrong.
I went to my GP about it and he diagnosed stress, so I didnt worry too much and got on with my normal life.
By the following Easter, I wasnt feeling well at all. Id started a new job, had no energy and was taking lots of antidepressants. I was putting on weight rapidly and wasnt feeling at all good.
I was also having a number of mysterious accidents. I banged my head badly when I was at work and am not sure exactly how I did it. Once I took the dog for a walk, and when I came back I was covered in mud. I still don't know how that happened. I was having memory problems, too.
My doctor referred me for an MRI scan and I was also sent to London for an ECG. While I was waiting for the results, I went away on holiday. But I was grumpy, didnt want to join in with anything and just didnt behave like I usually did.
"On my return, there was a letter waiting for me that told me I had epilepsy. It was such a shock. I was devastated. I made an appointment with my consultant and had a huge list of questions to ask him, but when I got there, he said, Jo, epilepsy is the least of your problems. You have a brain tumour.
"I didnt know what to think. It was such a shock to hear those words. There was just this whole mess of thoughts in my head. The consultant couldnt tell me much, as he didnt know if the tumour was benign or malignant. Two weeks later, I was sent for a biopsy.
"I was in hospital for a week and was a complete wreck. They discovered that I had a slow-growing grade 2 oligodendroglioma tumour. But because the tumour was deep-set in the left temporal lobe, it was too dangerous to operate on.
"It was a very delicate period. I hadnt been told where to go for support and I was very down and angry. Although it was good news that it was slow-growing, I just didnt want to deal with it. I didnt want it in my head and I didnt want to be in this situation. Eventually, I was put in touch with a support group and that did help. It made me realise that I wasnt the only one in this situation and that did give me some comfort.
"I started having radiotherapy three months after my diagnosis. I had it five days a week for six weeks. I was warned that Id lose all my hair, which I did, and I was left with a circle of hair at the top of my head. But the radiotherapy helped. After Id finished the course, I got the news that the tumour was lying dormant.
"In September 2006, a scan showed that the tumour was growing again. I went into shock when I heard the news.
"I started chemotherapy in October 2006 and had six cycles. I had 11 days of chemo with a four- to five-week gap in between. I felt so ill while it was going on. But while I was in the middle of chemotherapy, I got married to my boyfriend Salvo. Afterwards, my scan showed that the tumour was dormant again.
"My lifewill definitely be shortened by this tumour, but Im living itto the best of my ability. I have bad painsthat move around my body and my balance is quite badly affected. I fall over really easily.
"My writing and spelling is appalling these days and my memory is ruined, because the tumour is pressing against that part of my brain. My reading is also affected. I get stuck on certain words, just like a child.
"But I have to be positive. Its hard, but Ive had to learn to live with it. I didnt, and still dont, want to be defeated by it. I have a very loving and supportive husband and family. I also discovered that keeping my mind occupied has really helped and Ive developed a strong interest in gardening, which I find very therapeutic.
"Practical help has been invaluable. A friend filled in all my benefit forms for me and Ive nominated her to have power of attorney, so she always deals with that side of things. When you have something wrong with your brain, you really need that kind of help."
This case history was provided by The Brain Tumour Charity.
A benign (non-cancerous) brain tumour is a mass of cells that grows slowly in the brain. It usually stays in one place and does not spread.
The symptoms of a benign or low-grade brain tumour depend on its size and where it is in the brain. Some slow-growing tumours may not cause any symptoms at first.
The cause of most benign brain tumours is unknown, although a small number of cases have been linked to certain genes or previous cancer treatment.
See your GP if you develop any of the symptoms of a benign brain tumour, such as a persistent and severe headache.
Most benign tumours are removed with surgery and do not normally come back.
After being treated for a brain tumour, you may need additional care to monitor and treat any further problems.
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