I refuse to allow it to define me - Beth's cancer journey

Published: 13 February 2024

Beth was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour. She went to the doctor with her symptoms, was referred for tests and discovered that not only did she have a tumour in her brain but that the two lesions were secondary cancers. She has carried on working and refuses to let her diagnosis define her. 

Meet Beth

I went to a friend’s house and they have two cats, which I am very allergic to. I stayed there overnight, but I had to leave early in the morning because I was in such a state due to my allergy. I got home and then I came down with labyrinthitis, an inner ear infection. I couldn’t balance and I was being sick and it was just horrible.  I was down for about two weeks and really struggled to get up.

The doctors were coming out to me and they said that this seemed to be going on for too long. Eventually I started to come around from that, but I still went to see an ENT specialist and I went for hearing tests and then I had an MRI. They thought there might be something like a growth or cyst behind my ear. Instead, they found two lesions at the back of my head.

I think at this stage I was just of the mindset that I would just go along with things. There were concerns that this was cancer, but things were not proven, so I would just not get too emotional. I knew it wasn’t confirmed, so I wouldn’t act like it was.

"I knew it wasn’t confirmed, so I wouldn’t act like it was."

I had surgery on the first and a biopsy was taken from that. That was when they said that these were not primary cancers but secondary cancers.

We found out it was cancer via the radiology results, which were brought to our home by our GP. That was a really lovely thing for him to do. He wanted us to be in the most comfortable state as we could be when it came to getting the news.

But the big news was the fact that these were secondary cancers, which we found out after the biopsy. It was hard to process the news. I didn’t actually get upset a lot. I suppose I didn’t want to let it just stop me.

"I refuse to allow it to define me. I just won’t let it."

The main time that I actually got upset was before the surgery. I don’t know why it hit me so much then. I also got very upset when I found out it was back the second time.  Sometimes it hits me when I let myself stop. I just have to deal with it. I can’t change it, so that is the only choice I have.

I then had cyber knife treatment on my second lesion. It was amazing – I was very lucky to have that treatment. It was very cool and absolutely brilliant.

The worst part of my whole experience has been the steroids. There are so many side-effects. They are something I am really passionate about. They definitely do the job that they are supposed to do, but it would be fantastic if something could be done to counteract them.  

The cyber knife showed really good progress and that was a big positive. I was also having the radiotherapy and once everything was on track with my treatment plan, I then had a no treatment period.

I went back to work and started trying to get my life back to normal and then in a scan they found that the tumour which had been removed by surgery was already coming back. That was really hard to take – it was only a matter of months after the surgery. We knew it was going to come back, but I really thought it would be later than that. That was a really low point for me. It was hard to try and stay positive.

They gave me two options. I could have surgery or radiotherapy. I went for the radiotherapy. In my eyes the surgery had more risk and seemed to have less positive effects. It had come right back after the last surgery. I know that radiotherapy has its own risks, but they seem like less to me. So far it has worked well for me.

My diagnosis has made me want to speed up in a way. So things I have always wanted, like a family and a house and a dog, all that, suddenly I am of the mindset where I want it all now.

I know it is not necessary to feel like this. I am not dying tomorrow. I do realise that maybe my time is limited, but at the same time it might not be. You just don’t know. I didn’t have that moment where I decided to quit my job and travel the world. I have kept my life as normal as possible.

Tag: DGN