This blog is close to home and very personal, but I want others to be aware and not afraid. Cancer affects not only the person suffering but friends, family and everyone around you. This is the story of my family – The Sharman’s.
It’s been 6 and a half years since it all started and were still going. My brother was 14 years old at the time, when he had his first epileptic fit, August 2010 on the side of the road. He was extremely lucky that his friends were with him at the time, they flagged down every single passing car and rang 3 ambulances! They were all extremely brave and sat in a ditch with my brother until help arrived.
In September 2010, he had his very first brain scan. Trying to get a 14 year old boy sit still for an hour was extremely difficult at the time! Far too energetic and nervous all in one. The Doctors results from the scan saw something attached to his brain. No-one knew what it was, we just knew it wasn’t supposed to be there and it causing issues!
11th October 2010, we had our first trip to Addenbrooks in Cambridge. For people who are unaware, Addenbrooks is a hospital mostly for Cancer and Neurosciences. As you can imagine, being told that you are off to Addenbrooks is very nerve racking when you don’t know a lot of information. However, as a family plus our god-mother we went down together and had a full day in the hospital. As he was 14, the children’s sector is where we spent most of our time, trying to keep smiling and occupied. We started to draw, colour and bring out the inner child of ourselves!
November 2010 the epileptic fits and seizures were becoming more and more frequent. So were the days, nights or weekends in hospital! Me and my brother had so much time off from school, mum had a lot of time off work and we had an awful lot of catching up to do when we were ready.
My Birthday is 31st October – Halloween! and mums birthday is 11th November and Christmas is almost due at this point. It was safe to say that none of us were in the celebrating moods! However our friends and family were there to support and keep us smiling, laughing and enjoying life! Unfortunately Christmas wasn’t the same, none of us will ever show people photos because we look like ghosts. Having no sleep, ALWAYS worrying, not eating properly and being on edge – We all stopped taking things for granted and started to appreciate everyone around us a lot more.
January 2011, we were still scared of the unknown. Back to school and work we all went, trying to get back to normal. Unfortunately, the children at our school were very immature and started to bully my brother – not appropriate or nice to someone or a family that is suffering. It all got sorted eventually through the families as the school was no help and if anything made it worse.
All the next few years consist of seizures, hospital appointments, my family faking smiles to everyone and pretending that everything is ok. We found out that my brother has an inoperable Glioma brain tumour on his left side. So every 3 months we all took a trip down to Addenbrooks to have a scan, making sure that the tumour hasn’t grown, spread or moved. Unfortunately over the years, the tumour started to cause more the seizures. My brother was put on an extremely high dose of Epilim which caused him to have horrible migraines and eating us out of house and home! His seizures would last a few minutes which is a very long time – scary to watch and heartbreaking. The tumour also caused him to have memory loss, after each seizure which got worse and worse as time went on. The worst was a whole month, which was very upsetting for him.
March 2014, We got to see the tumour for the very first time via scan. An extremely scary sight! Something so small is so dangerous and causes so much trouble, upset and inconvenience! The results showed that the tumour had grown just a little and it was getting close to his spine which was a no go! But also meant that it was even more inoperable than the start! The doctors were worried that if they went in, more of his body could be affected. There was a chance of loosing his sight, the use of his limbs or if they clipped anything else it could have done more damage than good to his brain. So an operation at this point was a definite no.
In 2015, we found out that the tumour was cancerous. The most devastating news we could have possibly received. We cried for days, weeks on end. The only person that was ‘fine’ surprisingly was my brother! He was the one that kept me and mum standing. Nathan is the backbone to all of us, making us laugh and smile and seeing the positive side. Which was that the tumour was holding the cancer, as long as the tumour hasn’t grown or spread, the cancer won’t either. Every 6 months we had to take a family trip down to Addenbrooks to have a scan! Me and mum got into the habit of going to the little shop and buying a teddy for my brother. We weren’t allowed into the scans so we brought something that could go in with him every time. The CT Scan was the worst, even Nathan absolutely hated it and said he never wanted to be put through it again. Having something soft for him to hold is comforting and keeps him calm though.
26th January 2016 – a year today, my brother had his first operation. The doctors at Addenbrooks decided that they wanted to do a biopsy. I was the worst sister in the world and lived in Nottingham at the time, Mum told me I had to stay. He had his girlfriend and her with him and a third person would be over crowding.. It was safe to say that the day was a complete write off for me, I couldn’t concentrate on anything and staring at my phone waiting for someone to keep me updated – The longest day of my life. The plan was to get him fully prepared, in the lovely blue long socks (which he didn’t appreciate), he had to take his hat off so that they could shave part of his hair. Now from the photo, you will see he has long hair and its his pride and joy, shaving his hair was more upsetting than anything else to him. Also with a massive blue arrow on his face – to make sure the surgeons insert the right side! Mum said saying goodbye to her son was the worst thing shes ever had to do. He was taken into a theatre where is head would be locked into a headrest/bars – so that he couldn’t physically move during the procedure.
My Sibling is the bravest person I know, undergoing a craniotomy for an open brain biopsy whilst awake. There’s a photo of him after surgery, smiling! He was in surgery for 5 hours and wasn’t allowed any food or drink beforehand so all he wanted was a Coke and Burger King! Nathan smiling made all our hearts drop with love and relief.
He now has a metal plate screwed into his skull and had 55 stitches at the top of his head. I’d upload photos but my site is public and it’s not a view for the faint hearted. Although if you would like to see, please free feel to go onto my Facebook. We knew the possibilities that could happen if he went into surgery and he lost the feeling in the left side of his body but considering what could of happened, the doctors weren’t too worried!
My Brother has shown me that age doesn’t matter, negativity needs to be thrown out the window, you always need to find the positives and NOTHING stops the Sharman family. We’ve always been a strong family, but the bond between two siblings can’t grow any stronger than ours. Hopefully he won’t mind me sharing our story! Personally, I think that people need to share their stories as it’s nice to know you are not alone, not the only one going through the same problems and that there is a happy ending!
Admittedly, we are still playing the waiting game. We still have no idea what is going to happen. We are waiting for Proton therapy to be fully developed, tested and had results before we even consider treatment! My brother told me, if it’s no broken then don’t fix it. He’s happy that he can live life to the full and for the next 5 years, keeping our toes, fingers and every bone in our body crossed hoping that nothing changes! That’s the best news we could possibly hear. It’s his 21st birthday on the 10th May so we are going to go all out!! If you saw him now, you honestly wouldn’t get able to tell that for years hes been suffering a tumour, cancer or had an operation.
We did have a bit of a giggle, as always we find the bright side. I was hoping he would be magnetic – but unfortunately not. He definitely tried it though.
I also want everyone to be aware that on the 23rd March 2017 – #wearitout Raising for money the the Brain Tumour Charity – an extremely good cause and the money goes straight to all the treatment research! (Like proton therapy).
I know it’s been a very long blog but thank you for reading. I would love to hear your stories, advice or comments.