Lorraine's story

Everybody has potential - courage against adversity. A written and filmed account of Lorraine's experiences.

In my early twenties I was diagnosed with a serious brain tumour which took out a large part of my life. Three operations left me unable to function and fighting considerable brain damage. I had to start from scratch and continue to face many challenges in my daily life.

I was born a healthy baby but at 8 months old I was ill for a few weeks with flu-like symptoms. Soon afterwards, while I was attempting to crawl and then walk, it was noticed that I was not moving around properly and had developed spasticity in my right side.

At 10 years old I started to suffer from excruciatingly painful headaches which were misdiagnosed as migraines; these continued, with increasing severity, throughout my teens. (This was back in the late 80s – diagnosis wasn't as good as it is nowadays.)

Finally, at the age of 22, I suffered another 'migraine attack' which went on for weeks. I could not swallow and my weight dropped dramatically, so I was hospitalised to be treated for severe dehydration. A routine CT scan showed that, in fact, I had a large tumour in the roof of the fourth ventricle of my brain and I needed immediate surgery to remove it because it was pressing on vital nerves in my brain. The first operation went wrong because the anaesthetist “forgot" to put a monitor on my index finger. (He consequently lost his job at the hospital.) I went into cardiac arrest and the operation had to be terminated very rapidly. At first, the doctors thought that they had removed enough of the tumour from my brain but, unfortunately, its size was disguised by the heavy steroids I was taking. Very soon afterwards, I contracted bacterial meningitis and was rushed back into hospital where I was given daily lumbar punctures, as well as copious intravenous antibiotics.

As soon as I was sufficiently recovered, a second – much more major – operation was performed to try and remove the rest of the tumour, which the doctors described as being “the size of a grapefruit". Although the tumour was benign, it had to be removed because of its situation, pressing on so many nerves and which had already affected my swallowing.

After this second operation, which involved removing tissue from the cerebellum (the area of the brain that is responsible for balance, speech etc.), I was left unable to walk, talk, sit up or generally do anything much at all. I had to learn to use different pathways in my brain to re-train myself in all day-to-day activities. I approached this massive challenge much as if I was training to compete in a championship race and, after a lot of effort and several setbacks, I achieved these mammoth tasks. However, characteristically, I was very over-ambitious and exhausted myself to the point where I contracted ME and was virtually confined to bed for the next two and a half years.I am now left with a much compromised immune system and have to face the constant stark reality of having to get used to a life of physical dependency on other people.

However, in more recent years, I have begun to really sense that I was meant to survive to have a purpose: to be a teacher, which is what I always wanted to be and, in fact, previously had trained as, and so educate other people as well as myself. Consequently, as a result of these struggles, I very much wanted to transform my negative experiences into positive ones.

To that end I have created a website: www.pwpotential.org and it is my dream that this will bring inspiration and hope to others. Also, if I could realise the goal of offering hope to other people in a physical situation similar to mine, it would really be so fulfilling for me to know that I was doing something truly worthwhile. The way I see it, is that most of us are affected by physical or emotional suffering in one way or another.

I would be most grateful if you would take some time to visit my site, sign up for my regular newsletters and contact me.