Mandy and David’s story
Mandy Denise McGowan was loved by all who met her. She was loyal, kind, fiercely courageous; she had an infectious smile that lit up the room. She was a beloved mother, daughter, sister, and friend, and her loss has left an immeasurable void in our hearts and in our lives.
In March 2012 Mandy aged 45, appeared to be in perfect health. She ate healthily, cycled regularly, and could often be seen running along the paths and roads of Orsett village. Then, early one morning on her drive to work, she had a car accident, suffering what we now know to be a tonic-clonic seizure at the wheel of her car. A CT scan at our local hospital revealed a lesion in her brain, and she was transferred to the Neurosurgical Unit at Queen’s Hospital, Romford. A few days later, Mandy underwent surgery, and we were given the diagnosis. Glioblastoma multiforme. Grade IV.
This news was devastating. In 1983 we lost our 42-year-old father, David Richard McGowan, to an astrocytoma, a grade II brain tumour, following nine months of treatment at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London. That our family could be struck not once, but twice, by this disease was unimaginable.
Mandy started six weeks of radiotherapy in May 2012, followed by multiple rounds of chemotherapy. Her strength and bravery was incredible; she was an inspiration to us all. Whenever we threatened to be overcome by the gravity of the situation we merely had to look at her, still laughing and smiling and brimming with determination, to pull ourselves together.
In December 2012 we were informed that conventional chemotherapy was not working: in spite of everything, the tumour had grown. Following discussions with Mandy’s consultant oncologist and neurosurgeon, it was decided that a second surgery in January 2013 would be her best option. This was a success, and within an hour of returning from the recovery room she was smiling, sipping coffee, and nibbling on a sandwich. Her strength and bravery was incredible.
In May 2013 Mandy started an alternative course of chemotherapy using the drug Avastin, given every two weeks at Queen’s Hospital. The treatment was gruelling but effective; Mandy was able to holiday in Devon, at Center Parcs and in Brighton; attend family celebrations; and enjoy her daughter’s 21st birthday party. She even got back on her bicycle, flying along the road with an enormous smile on her face. Even after two brain surgeries, radiotherapy, and countless rounds of chemotherapy, her strength was undiminished. She was a woman with fire in her soul.
In February 2014 Mandy became unwell. She was readmitted to Queen’s Hospital, and the rounds of Avastin were stopped, as the treatment had caused the development of multiple haematomas in her abdomen. Her medical team decided that Mandy should have a rest from treatment, giving her a few weeks to recover before identifying the next course of action.
However, in April 2014 we noticed that the scar on her head from the two previous surgeries was weeping: it had never properly healed, and Mandy had a severe brain infection. Following two further surgeries, Mandy spent six weeks in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit. With the help of her medical team, the decision was then made to transfer her to St. Luke’s Hospice.
On Monday 23rd June 2014, surrounded by her family, Mandy’s battle ended.