Charley Lemon is 29 and lives in Swansea. Two years ago, a sudden seizure during her sleep led to her being diagnosed with a grade 3 Glioma.
I’m really excited to share this interview. Not just because Charley offers some super useful tips for girls undergoing radiotherapy and/or chemo, but also because her tumour is nicknamed Greg. Love that!!
Reading Charley’s responses I had so many YES moments. I can completely relate to how it feels to be the youngest person in the waiting room, and know what she means when she describes awake brain surgery as unusual and ALSO, we both happen to be pregnant.
Come on then, let’s dive in…
HOW HAS YOUR DIAGNOSIS AFFECTED YOU?
I am less fit. Way less. I used to be very active and enjoyed rock climbing, surfing and running. Now I’m shattered having a stroll down the street. Emotionally it’s been good and bad. I’m a lot closer with family because it’s brought us closer together which I’m very grateful for. But I also have counselling now because I don’t really deal with emotions that well and I’m quite closed off. Socially it has helped me realise who my friends are. Cancer kind of pushes people away and the ones who fight to stick around are friends worth having.
I think I’m still waiting on a new normal
WHAT’S YOUR EXPERIENCE OF AVAILABLE TREATMENTS?
I have had surgery in April 2017, followed by about six weeks of radiotherapy, and then a year of chemotherapy (this got interrupted at month ten because I got pregnant). I also got a load of eggs frozen because they said chances are I’d be infertile and they offer that to cancer patients here.
However, I am definitely not infertile because I’m making a baby at the moment!
Surgery was unusual, I had to be awake and read and figure out maths problems while someone cut a chunk out of my brain.
Radiotherapy was definitely the worst. You’re there five days a week, at any time of the day, you can’t make plans. And when you’re the youngest person there it’s sort of awkward. And when they always try and talk to you and you just want to be left to it it’s sort of annoying. Also, that’s when my hair came out and when that happens you really realise you have cancer. Chemotherapy wasn’t as bad as expected.
Make sure you take your anti-sickness tablets or you will throw up! But it’s a few tablets a day for five days out of the month. Honestly, the worst bit about this is the constipation caused by the anti-sickness tablets.
Tell me about YOUR ‘NEW NORMAL’?
Well, I don’t think I’m quite at normal yet because there’s always been something. Currently, pregnancy is taking over everything else, I’m about halfway through and baby is doing really well! I think I’m still waiting on a new normal.
WHERE DO YOU TURN FOR SUPPORT?
My counsellor is a wonderful human. She’s had cancer too and she also used to be a midwife so she is the ideal person for me to talk to about anything and everything. I’d highly recommend it if you’re struggling because talking to someone out of the circle is a lot easier.
I also went to Maggie’s a lot, particularly through radiotherapy and they are super nice and can help with even the little things, or you can just relax there and have a sleep if you want to.
HAS YOUR DIAGNOSIS IMPACTED ON YOUR CAREER?
I’ve recently changed jobs. Honestly, it’s not a job I love. But they’re really good about my illness and also my pregnancy and they give me as much as they can for appointments and sick leave.
However, I’ve been thinking a lot more about my career overall and I’m going to study part-time to become a teacher starting next year.
Charley’s TOP TIPS FOR OTHER GIRLS IN THE BRAIN TUMOUR CLUB
- Doctors have seen it all. Ask for laxatives for your anti-sickness meds, don’t be an idiot like me and end up with haemorrhoids. If your nails go dry, put lip balm on them.
- Don’t wear makeup to your radiotherapy appointments, it all rubs off on the mask you have to wear. eBay, Amazon and lush wigs are great and not too expensive if you want a change.
- Tell people you’re struggling and make sure you get help.
- If you decide to apply for PIP, go into as much detail as possible on every question. Have them come over to your house to ask you questions, you’re not well enough to go to an office. And have someone with you for the appointment. You can also get a bus pass free of charge and the disabled train card which does cost a bit but if you do use the train it’s worth it.
Are you a babe living with a brain tumour? I'd love to speak to you about your experiences, comment below and I'll be in touch.