Amanda Everett, now 25, from Portsmouth lost her mum Kathy when she was just 17-years-old after she was diagnosed with a Glioblastoma. This is one of the most aggressive types of brain tumour and typically has a 12-18 month prognosis.
Kathy had worked as a secretary for several years before she found her passion at a specialist school in Chichester, where she dedicated her time and effort into supporting the staff and caring for the attending children.
Amanda says that she and her mum were very similar in a lot of ways and she knows that her chosen career path in primary education is something her mum would have loved to do herself.
Amanda added: “Mum’s approach to life was always that the glass is half full. She had so much love to give and everyone around her felt that positive energy. Her bubbly personality was contagious. We had only just begun to scratch the surface of what our adult relationship could be – I remember how much fun we would have and how she used to love dancing at parties.
“I have been through so much heartache so it’s hard to adopt her upbeat approach to life but I try to channel her in everything that I do. However, because of my past experiences, I am naturally apprehensive about what life may have ahead for me.”
It was back during Christmas 2012 that the family noticed some changes in Kathy’s behaviour. With their big family around them, she began to forget people’s names and basic words in sentences. They initially brushed this off as nothing serious although, after a few weeks, Kathy visited the doctor. Four trips to the GP put it down to menopause and she was put on a long waiting list for the headache clinic at St Richard’s Hospital.
But by April, Kathy was experiencing severe headaches. Amanda’s auntie suggested getting a private MRI scan. Yet, with no prior knowledge of brain tumours, no one in the family could have possibly been prepared for what was to come. The scan revealed that Kathy had a Grade 4 Glioblastoma and the consultant gave her just days to live if she didn’t have immediate treatment.
Under the care of Southampton Spire Hospital, Kathy had chemotherapy and radiotherapy as well as surgery to remove the tumour. The procedure was difficult due to the location of the tumour but the operation successfully removed as much as possible. This thankfully gave Kathy more time with her beloved family.
They spent that time wisely and decided to not focus on the prognosis but make the most of every moment they had together instead. So, they surrounded themselves with extended family and friends to enjoy delicious barbecues in the warm summer weather.
“We are beyond grateful to have had those extra months with Mum. At one point, Mum told us that if this was the end of her life then she had no regrets as she had been a part of the most loving relationship with Dad and had two amazing children. She was happy with how her life had turned out and I take great comfort in knowing that."
Amanda added: “Yet all the treatment made Mum so poorly. The image of my strong and confident mother began to fade. She became delusional, she would hallucinate and lose track of where she was. She was frequently sick and she gained a lot of weight. But we’re thankful that she never lost her hair - or her loving nature.
“Although we felt that we were let down by the GP, the private treatment we received was incredible and they worked around the clock to ensure that we, as a family, received the best possible care.”
Shortly after a family gathering for Kathy’s 51st birthday on 1st October, she was admitted to St Wilfred’s Hospice in Chichester – which had been helping the family in the months leading up to Kathy’s admission. It was then that Amanda realised that her mum wouldn’t be coming home. Kathy spent two weeks at the hospice before passing away on 14 November 2013, just seven months after her diagnosis.
Amanda added: “Mum was at the hospice for two weeks and we visited all of the time. On one occasion, I visited by myself and I ended up staying late into the evening to have dinner, watch TV and read magazines with Mum – that’s a really special memory of mine.”
In the years which followed, Amanda finished college, attended and graduated from Chichester University, so she could stay close to home for help and support from her dad. She then moved to Portsmouth, qualified as a teacher and she has been working at a local school for the last two years. She has also recently got engaged to her long-term partner, Elliott.
Amanda said: “The first two years after losing Mum flew by and I was just trying to get through college. Eight years on and I feel like I have gone from strength to strength with processing my grief – but I am still finding out links to how I behave now and what I have been through.
“Mum is always with me but I do struggle every so often. It has really hit me how Mum has missed so many milestone moments in my life – knowing that she won’t be there on my wedding day is a bitter pill to swallow.
“But I am thankful that, as a family, we have grown closer and we often talk about how we remember Mum. My dad and brother are the most incredible men you could ever meet and I know Mum would be proud of us all. Our extended family has always been a part of our lives and they provide us with valued support too.”
Amanda first found out about The Brain Tumour Charity following her mum’s death as she searched online for help and information about Glioblastomas. Since then, she has been supporting the Charity including completing a fundraising run.
She added: “I needed answers after Mum died – I wanted to know more about Glioblastomas and how common they are. The Brain Tumour Charity really helped me with that. It still astounds me that there isn’t more awareness of brain tumours – especially given how they can come out of the blue and then kill so quickly.
“The Brain Tumour Charity also comforts me as I know that I am not alone as many people have sadly lost their parents or other loved ones to this horrendous disease.”