A Bath mum is celebrating getting her life back on track following the diagnosis and treatment of a brain tumour.
A pair of broken glasses prompted Jane Edwards to visit Specsavers on Westgate Street to get them fixed, but she ended up having an eye test as well. After the test, her optician immediately referred her for scans, sending a letter to Jane’s GP the same day.
‘I knew it was quite serious as the optometrist insisted that I get it checked immediately,’ said Jane. ‘I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, a meningioma which was growing very close to my carotid artery.’
Surgery was required to remove it which left a scar from ear to ear and a metal plate in her skull. Having previously worked full time as a local authority senior social worker as well as looking after her 10-year-old son, Jane’s life was now changed forever.
‘I was very unwell,’ she continues. ‘I couldn’t get off the sofa or even walk to the end of the garden. I couldn’t move my mouth properly, so eating was difficult and my friends and neighbours did everything for me.’
Jane was determined to get back on her feet. ‘My son needed me. I had a mortgage to pay, and I just had to get my life back on track.’
Slowly but surely she was able to go for longer walks and do more for herself. ‘It’s so hard to put into words what brain surgery does to you,’ said Jane. ‘The fatigue I felt was something else. I didn’t know myself any more. I found it difficult to follow conversations; I got overwhelmed easily; I had double vision; and found decision making really difficult. I didn’t know my own capabilities anymore and had to re-learn about my body.’
‘I have shown that people can get back to work successfully following brain surgery,’ continued Jane. ‘I have also been voted in as Chair of my employer's Disabled Employees Group, and this gives me more opportunities to challenge negative discriminatory attitudes and practices, and raise the profile of equality in the workplace. If only all employers realised that if they invest in helping a disabled employee get back to work, they will be rewarded with someone dedicated, hard-working and committed.’
Jane felt like her life was back on track. She still had good days and bad days, but she was doing well in her job, she had got her driving licence back, and her physical strength was improving. Then one day, on a training course, she found herself saying that she would run the Bath Half Marathon. ‘I honestly don’t know what came over me,’ said Jane. ‘I could just about take the dog for a walk at that point, but I’d never run before in my life.’
Jane started using the BBC Couch to 5K app. ‘It should have taken me nine weeks, but I took twice as long. I wouldn’t call what I did ‘running’ – it was more like plodding, but I did it.’
Despite getting terrible headaches, dizzy spells and even falling over several times, she got herself a new pair of running shoes and started building up from 5km to 10km. ‘I didn’t want to join a group. I honestly didn’t think I would be able to do it, and I didn’t want other people to see me fail, so I did it on my own.’
Before she knew it, she had run 10km, and the day of the Bath Half Marathon had arrived. ‘I had two wonderful friends who ran with me, and we had a rescue plan in place in case I couldn’t manage it,’ she explained. ‘But I did it in 3hrs and 44sec! It was a steady plod, and I walked up any gradient, but I did it. I cannot tell you how it felt to cross that line. It was about so much more than just completing a run. It was a celebration of how far I had come.’
It was also about thanking the charity that helped her on her journey. Jane raised more than £1,500 in sponsorship for Brain Tumour Support, a charity founded in Thornbury just north of Bristol which helps brain tumour patients and their families across the UK.
‘When I got diagnosed, I didn’t know anyone who had had a brain tumour. I didn’t know who to turn to for advice or support. But then I found my local Brain Tumour Support Group and everything changed. Everyone talked about their fears so openly and honestly, it was amazing. I also saw a counsellor provided by Brain Tumour Support. She came to my house and put me back together again. She helped me get to know myself again.’
For more information about Brain Tumour Support visit www.braintumoursupport.co.uk