I didn’t see it coming. I underwent 12 hours of surgery to remove tissue and cartilage, including my ear canal, eardrum and salivary gland. I lost a lot of facial movement – I cannot smile and close my eye. This doesn’t really bother me because I have two children and the consequences of not removing the tumour are unthinkable. I began six weeks of radiotherapy to try to stop the cancer returning. Doctors said I would not be able to work for most of the year, but I returned there six months after my diagnosis.
Discovering Penny Brohn
I heard about Penny Brohn, so came to the National Centre to see how they could help. I took about half-a-year to get my head round what was happening. Thankfully, Penny Brohn was there to teach me to question some of the negativity surrounding my future. It was such a relief – they understood what was going on. I didn’t have to explain anything and was reassured that I was not the first person to walk in facing what I was. I have always relied on the old-school mentality of ‘I’m going to win no matter what”, and Penny Brohn helped remind me of that.
I really benefited from their massage, reflexology, acupuncture and takeaway techniques. I was so impressed with Penny Brohn, I quickly wanted to do something to thank them. So, I took on their Inca Trail in Peru, which included three mountain passes, one at 4,200m. Then, despite being partway through chemo, I ran my first Bristol 10k in 2014, raising £2,500 for Penny Brohn. I felt a buzz, so ran the following year’s Bristol 10k with my son Ryan – just six weeks after Gamma Knife brain surgery, which focused radiation beams on my tumour. I even trained by running 8km, two to three times a week, past Penny Brohn’s Centre in Pill. I’ve always tried to keep fit, but never particularly liked running, it’s more about keeping mentally fit – healthy body, healthy mind. I’m delighted to have raised over £16,000 for the charity that has a special place in my heart.
I strongly believe that Penny Brohn will change your life, doctors should introduce patients to them immediately after diagnosis. I will not let cancer win – it’s my life and body, and it’s not welcome. Cancer is such a dark world – it’s great to have Penny Brohn reminding me that there can be a bright future. The charity’s approach teaches many things, lift spirits and positivity as you face cancer and dark times. I love the charity and dogs, so to celebrate finishing my latest radiotherapy course – I got a bullmastiff and named her Penny.