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Ryan's story

Tuesday 13 August 2019

It was my parents who noticed it at first. I was complaining about headaches and my eyesight was deteriorating a little.

Luckily for me, mum and dad never messed around when it came to the health of their children. I was soon down at the local opticians having my eyes tested.

They couldn’t find anything wrong so the next step was a visit to the GP, who referred us to hospital in Romford.

Someone there took a look at me and thought I should be admitted for more tests but they couldn’t do that for several months. At that point my dad marched me back to the GP, who gave us another letter referring us to Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Luckily, dad was a black cab driver so getting there wasn’t a problem. I remember walking in to a ward and being asked to wait in a room with lots of toys, which was amazing, but I thought we were just there to look around.

I came out of surgery with few complications and my parents were told it was a success but I would need a lengthy period of radiotherapy once I recovered from the operation.

Mum and dad visited as much as they could. My older brother was shipped off here, there and everywhere to grandparents, aunts and uncles as he was about 12 at the time.

My sister was only two so it was harder for mum to visit me but even so I remember her being there a lot.

I realised recently, when I was talking to my dad about it all, how hard it hit my family. On the day I was admitted my brother asked my dad if I could die. My dad said yes, and they both broke down.

People kept coming and going, family, friends of our family. I had a big box of chocolate under my bed. I almost messed up a nil-by-mouth as I was going in for another surgery to explore if any of the tumour had broken off.

As I was only seven, I hated injections but had to have quite a few. Dad said I could have a pound for every one I had to have.

After I was discharged, I had daily visits to University College Hospital London to start my course of radiotherapy. My family came with me: dad all the time as he could get in and out with his black cab, mum a lot, nan and granddad sometimes.

My big brother used to run with me from the lift in the basement to the radiotherapy clinic as they put it right next to the kitchens and the smell would make me feel physically sick.

I lost big clumps of hair and was very sick but after a while I started to recover. When I came home from hospital I got so bored in the end that I asked mum to go in to school and get some school work for me to do.

As the years went by, visits to the hospital became less frequent and I was able to lead a normal life. My dad bought several hats for me to wear when I went back to school as my hair took a long time to grow back.

One thing sticks in my mind. A girl called Claire, who was about my age, was in the bed next to me at Great Ormond Street. We played together and my parents and hers became close. We lost contact soon after as she lived far away and we didn’t have the internet or social media in those days. But my parents found out years later that she didn’t make it.

It makes you think.....

I look back and realise it was a blessing that at such a young age, I didn’t realise how serious it was.

I want to use my experience to help others who’ve been affected by a brain tumour diagnosis and I’m happy to talk to anyone who wants to know more or would like to chat about it.