Cancer category: Central nervous system tumours
Cancer type: Intracranial germ cell and trophoblastic tumours
Andrew was 15 when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. After succesful treatment he is looking forward to life and hope to become a writer.
Andrew never suspected cancer even though he’d been having some unusual problems. He was finding it hard to walk downhill, sometimes even losing control of his legs, making him want to run instead. He also had uncontrollable shaking and his right eye was turning outwards. His GP put the strange sensations down to growth spurts and said he probably need glasses to correct his eye.
Andrew and his mum pushed for more tests but the appointment was a six-month wait, so he went to his local casualty department instead. An MRI scan revealed a deep cancerous tumour in his brain, which doctors would not be able to remove safely or completely. The news was a complete shock to Andrew and his family.
“There wasn’t anyone my age to talk to”
Andrew was operated on immediately. A biopsy was taken and excess fluid was drained from his brain. He then had five weeks of intensive radiotherapy which left him with no energy at all. Andrew felt his situation was made worse because he was treated on a children’s ward:
“There were lots of babies crying all the time which made it difficult for me to sleep, and there wasn’t anyone my age to talk to.”
Once Andrew left hospital, his recovery was slow. He was left with lots of side effects from the tumour and treatment and also needed to use a wheelchair to help with his balance. He was keen to go back to school to take his GCSE’s, but found getting to classes in his wheelchair difficult.
For three years, Andrew had MRI scans every six months to monitor the part of the tumour left in his brain. Then out of the blue he started experiencing the same lack of control in his leg, the shakes and problems with his eye, even though the scans picked nothing up. A few months later he collapsed with a small bleed on his brain. Andrew would need another operation.
“The friends I made really supported and encouraged me”
This time Andrew spent ten weeks recovering in the Teenage Cancer Trust unit at University Hospital Wales, Cardiff which opened in 2009. The first few weeks were the hardest, the extreme tiredness made Andrew’s muscles waste and he had to learn to walk again. However, Andrew found being surrounded by others his own age in the new unit really helpful. He felt more supported and encouraged:
“After my operation I was so weak I couldn’t even lift my head up on my own. I had to learn to walk again which was really tough. But the nurses on the Teenage Cancer Trust unit were brilliant and made me feel really comfortable. The friends I made there also really supported and encouraged me and I think my recovery was quicker because of it.”
Andrew finished his treatment in December 2011. He still has scans every six months to check the tumour is not growing any bigger and will have to continue with these regular check up’s for the rest of his life. Undeterred Andrew is looking forward to the future and hopes to become a writer.