Dean was just 16-years-old when he was diagnosed with cancer. At 22, he discovered it was terminal. But for Dean, whilst hearing that news was devastating, he was determined to focus on living.
With the support of Birmingham St Mary’s, Dean is able to do the things he loves with the people he loves. From organising city breaks to planning his own wedding, he is making sure that he’s creating precious moments with family and loved ones. Here, Dean explains why he’s not dying of cancer – he’s living with it.
The moment I found out my tumour was terminal came like a bolt out of the blue. I had been diagnosed with a brain tumour at 16-years-old but thanks to surgery 99 per cent of it had been removed. So to find out, seven years later, that not only had it come back but that it was also incurable was just devastating.
Nothing can ever prepare you for a piece of news like that. It didn’t really sink in at first and I remember just sitting in that hospital room, nodding along to what the doctors were saying. I was in complete shock.
A few days later, reality hit. It might sound strange but during those days I never really thought about myself. Instead, all I could think about was my family and how I didn’t want them to worry or be upset. That’s when I realised that I’m not fighting this tumour for me, I’m fighting it for them – my mum, my dad, my partner Jamie, my nan, and everyone else I love. It was in that moment that I decided to focus on the positives. Of course, I knew there were going to be ups and downs along the way – there always are – but it was time to think more about the ups than the downs.
I was first put in contact with Birmingham St Mary’s shortly after that diagnosis. I know a lot of people think hospices can be scary places but I quickly realised that isn’t the case – it’s a place that helps you regain control over your illness and gets you looking forward to the future.
The Hospice has made a massive difference in helping me to focus on the here and now. When I met Laura and Ellie – my nurse and occupational therapist – the first thing they did was make sure that I was happy and comfortable at home. They sorted out my first-ever wheelchair and put handrails around the house to help me get about. They even got me a specialist bath seat as I told them how much I missed having baths!
But of course, one of the nicest things about Laura and Ellie is just knowing that I’ve got that extra support when I need it. When you’ve already got your illness to think about, it’s good to know that you haven’t got to worry about those other little things – like organising appointments or arranging to have tablets picked up. It’s just one less hassle and lets me focus on the more important things in life, such as spending time with Jamie and my family.
Shortly after Laura and Ellie’s visits, I started visiting the Day Hospice. I’ll never forget that moment when I first walked into the Day Hospice – everyone introduced themselves and said hello to me. They were all so friendly and just instantly put me at ease. As someone who’s having chemo, I normally feel so self-conscious about the way I look and tend to keep my hat on. But at the Day Hospice, I felt comfortable straight away. I was around people who were going through similar things to me and it felt good to not be judged on my appearance. By the end of the day, I felt confident enough to take my hat off.
I’m also receiving the new Support at Home service which has been incredible too. Jerry – my volunteer – visits me once a week and we’ll often play games or discuss things I need at home. But mostly, we just talk. We talk about everything, from politics to what music I want at my wedding. Jerry and I are definitely on the same wavelength and we normally end up putting the world to rights. Just having someone to talk to though – someone that isn’t a family member or friend – is really useful. There are times when I don’t want to mention things to my family in case it worries them, so having Jerry has been a tremendous help.
Thanks to Birmingham St Mary’s, I am able to worry less about my illness and focus more on living. Finding out that I have a terminal illness was tough but I am so excited for my future now. I’m off to London soon to watch the musical Wicked, I’d like to host another party at my local club, and of course, I’ve got the whole wedding thing to plan. I’m taking every day as it comes and just enjoying life because why not? Life is precious so to me, it’s important that I keep doing the things I love, with the people I love.
Thank you Dean for sharing your story with us. If you want to find out how our Day Hospice and Support at Home services help people to live well with their illness, please take a look through our website or give the Hospice a call on 0121 472 1191.