GRACE
Meningioma

My brain tumour moulded me into the girl I am today! - My name is Grace Cain, I am 16 years old and in 2010 I was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour. 6 years later, still with part of the tumour, I am strong and confident. I live by the quote William Churchill once stated 'never give up on something that you can't go a day without thinking about.' I believe that by going through that period in my life that it only made me more mature as a person as well as determined to succeed, which is why I am sharing my story today.

I was too young to figure out what was really happening however I could work out that I was very ill and only children with rare conditions were admitted to Great Ormand Street. My Mum was putting on a brave face and reassuring me that everything would be ok, however I couldn't help not believing her. I know now that everything is ok and I am so grateful for the support my Mum gave me through that time in my life. Spending my birthday in hospital was not preferable however my friends and family visited, trying their best to make it enjoyable for me. After finding the tumour through scan after scan followed by blood tests and other procedures they decided to operate and on the 3rd August 2010, after 8 hours of a peaceful sleep for me but an eternity of pacing for my parents we were reunited where we still had hope as well as a smile on our faces because I wasn't going to let this get me down. After finding out that they wanted to operate again 10days later it felt as if we were getting nowhere and it struck me that maybe I couldn’t get better. But I was not going to give up. This operation was 10hours and they got the majority of the tumour out, but not all of it. It was noticeable that the doctors were deciding whether to operate again however the risk of damaging the brain was also there, which all together put them against that idea. 6 weeks in hospital felt like a lifetime and when the words 'you can go home' came out of the nurse’s mouth I was overjoyed and could not wait to get in my own bed however I knew I would miss the hospital food as it was so nice and Wilson (the man who brought the meals to the ward) was my new best friend.

I made the most out of being at home and seeing my friends, when we received a letter notifying us that they were going to start radiotherapy that November, which would consist of traveling to London every day for a course of six weeks. I was determined to go to school for half a day every day before travelling up on the tube however when I couldn’t make it in on the odd Wednesday because they were running late in clinic it upset me very much. After reading books on radiotherapy and online blogs my mum realised that the symptoms could make me very ill and affect my growth. Being 5ft1 and a half today I blame radiotherapy and not the short gene I have in my family. Six weeks flew by and I finished my sticker chart that I made for each session. I spent Christmas at home with my family as well as travelling back and forth for tests and scans. Shortly after that we got the results from the treatment to find out that it did reduce the size of the tumour making it benign however it was still there and that it would stay there until it grew, which it hasn’t yet done and I have my fingers crossed it doesn’t as I think that I am pretty normal and ok the way things are at the minute.

Missing school was hard and I had a lot of catching up to do with both school work and socialising but I did it. The support network at my primary school was fantastic and I was extremely thankful for it but starting secondary school became daunting. My friends were brilliant and the teachers understood once we told them which made things so much easier for me however frequently leaving to go for check-ups and scans made it harder for me to stay on the same level as everyone else. I did all I could do and it got to the stage where I was only having yearly appointments so I wasn’t behind for once in a very long time. My best friend Amber who stayed with me from primary school to secondary was fantastic, from learning what to do if I had a fit to offering me a shoulder to cry on if things got too much which they often did. We fell out like most friends do however we always came back together so much stronger. I have the most amazing circle of friends and have had nearly my whole life who do not judge me for the illness that I have because I know there are definitely people that do treat me differently after they find out that I have a brain tumour which I do not let get me down. I tried a lot of techniques and treatments to try and make myself as normal as everyone else such as growth injections for a year and tablets however I got to the stage where I realised that I needed to accept myself the way I am and put this story behind me and believe that it is ok to be different.

I am 16 now and struggle to remember life before this illness yet I have come so far since and hope to continue this path. I aspire to grow up and become a paediatric nurse working in Great Ormand Street and this is because of the journey I have been on and how all I want to do is help others that are in similar situations and show the empathy I have towards them. I coped with this in many ways, from seeing a physical counsellor at University College Hospital where I took part in activities to show to me just how important all the other aspects of my life are-from friends and family to school. Another way I dealt with this was y just having some alone time. You don’t realise just how effective this until you do it. Just time to process your thoughts and convince yourself that you’re ok and that everything will be ok. The one thing I can’t get across enough is to stay positive as that will help so much as it is the foundations and then you can work on everything else.

Great Ormand Street Hospital saved my life and I want to repay them by saving other people’s lives.