A mum who thought stress was causing her headaches was placed in a coma after doctors found a brain tumour that had been growing for at least five years.
Rachel Carter, 46, had been feeling tired, forgetful and suffering with headaches and thought it was down to her stressful job.
But shortly after coming home from a holiday in Tunisia, the mum-of-two from Newport suffered a seizure and was rushed to hospital where she was placed in an induced coma.
She said : “My job involved a lot of driving and being away from home. It was a busy, stressful role, so when I first started suffering with fatigue and headaches in 2019, I thought it was work-related.
“I was also becoming forgetful and was struggling to sleep but it wasn’t until June that year that I realised something much more serious was going on.
Doctors at Royal Gwent Hospital found a “shadow” at the front of her brain and she was transferred to the University Hospital of Wales. She was then diagnosed with a grade 3 anaplastic astrocytoma.
“I was told it may have been growing for anywhere between five and eight years,” she said.
Rachael, who is mum to two children aged 12 and 11, had surgery to debulk the tumour on September 20, 2019, before suffering two devastating family tragedies.
“It was an awful period, as my dad was ill at the time of my diagnosis and he passed away on 9 September, just days before my craniotomy.
“His funeral was just a week after my brain surgery. It was horrendous. On top of that, explaining everything to my children was so hard.
“I was made aware from the outset that my prognosis isn’t great; it averages at between two and five years.
“It’s taken a while for me to be able to talk openly about my illness but I’m learning to live with it and to try and make the most of the time I have.”
Family friend and RAF aircraft engineer Anthony Hard, 36, who was also battling a brain tumour then lost his life, leaving behind his wife and two children.
The majority of Rachael’s brain tumour has been removed but her surgeon said it was likely to grow back.
Following surgery, she was treated at Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff with 31 sessions of daily radiotherapy and at the beginning of 2020 she began a seven-month course of chemotherapy.
Rachael said: “The radiotherapy made me really poorly. Christmas, 2019, was a write-off. Chemo made my hair fall out and I suffered from a lot of sickness. I take anti-epilepsy medication, which has fortunately prevented me from having any more seizures.
“One of the worst things for me has been giving up work. Physically and mentally, I’m just not able to do the job I was doing before. Thankfully, the company has been brilliant and I am still employed by them. I’m really grateful for their support.”
Rachael is now taking part in a fundraiser to complete 10,000 steps a day for Brain Tumour research along with her friend Michelle Huckle.
Rachael added: “Apart from walking, exercise has fallen by the wayside since I was diagnosed with a brain tumour. I’ve been home-schooling our two children on-and-off since March, 2020, all while being on cancer treatment and having to shield, as I was classified as vulnerable.
“It’s been tough and I’ve felt cooped up much of the time. Luckily, I’ve got great support from friends and family and I’ve had my first dose of the Covid vaccine, which is a relief.
“Taking on this challenge will provide me with some much-needed focus and it’s something really positive to get stuck into, all while raising money for this hugely important cause.”
Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.