Dominique Nicholson, 31, from Leicestershire, had suffered exhaustion and headaches when expecting her first daughter Freya, now five, and so she wasn’t overly concerned about experiencing the effects during her second pregnancy.
However, less than a month after the birth of her second daughter, Erin, the mother was left ‘in agony’ with her head and rushed to her local hospital, where doctors diagnosed her with a grade 2 non-cancerous meningioma in July 2019.
“Looking back, it seems so surreal, almost like a dream. One minute we’d welcomed Erin into the world and were enjoying being a family of four. The next, I was told I had a brain tumour. I just couldn’t take it.
“How could this thing have been growing in my head? We were meant to be enjoying those precious first weeks with Erin and Freya was so excited about being a big sister. Instead, I’d been diagnosed with a brain tumour.”
Dominique was overwhelmed by dark thoughts, and says she was left wondering: “What if I didn’t live to see Erin and Freya grow up? What if I was a different person after I’d had surgery?”
Dominique underwent seven hours of brain surgery and medics removed 99 percent of the 4cm tumour except for a tiny piece attached to a blood vessel.
Poignantly, Dominique wrote letters for Dave and the girls in case she didn’t make it through the operation.
“I told Dave how much I love him and what I’d like him to do for the girls if I wasn’t there,’ she said. ‘I said he must have a christening for Erin when she was 12 weeks old like we’d done for Freya.
“And I asked him to put my photos up around the house. I wrote to the girls that I was sorry Mummy wasn’t here but that I’d always love them and Daddy would look after them.”
Since the surgery, Dominique has been recovering well – but still worries that her brain tumour will grow back.
“It’s always a worrying time as the date approaches for the scan and then for the results. It often affects my mood and I get sucked into the negative thoughts.“
Yet Dominique has vowed to cherish every moment with her family as she ‘knows more than ever how precious life is’.
“Those everyday moments became even more precious. I’ve always loved making memories and now it’s more important to me than ever – you never know when everything may be snatched away from you.
“I wanted us to make as many memories with Erin as we had with Freya when she was a newborn.“
Dominique has scans once a year. She says her experience has ‘totally changed’ her perspective and she now encourages others to not put off doing things they’ve always wanted to do, saying: ‘Do them now and live life to the full.’
Her experience has also had an impact on her mental health.
“I feel very lucky that my brain tumour was diagnosed and removed within a week,’ she said. ‘But it’s been a lot to process that I was the mother of a new baby when I went through all this in such a short space of time.
“I fought so hard to stay positive, I sought therapy for someone independent to talk to, I kept a diary of how I felt at the time. I confided in friends and family when I was at my lowest. There is always someone to talk to, whether that’s a close friend, relative or someone completely neutral.
“Sometimes sharing your thoughts can help you see a different perspective and give you that bit of hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel and things will get better.“
She continued: ‘I wanted to give something back and chose to raise money for The Brain Tumour Charity because it not only funds research but also offers support to people living with a brain tumour – as 91 percent of people diagnosed say it has affected their mental health.’
Every day in March 2020, Dominique decided to walk, run or jog around her local reservoir, inviting friends and family to join her.
“I was overwhelmed by people’s support. Some days I had a big group with me and, on other days, one person. Then, during lockdown, I continued with Dave and the girls and we raised £1,600 on our fundraising page.
“This year, 2021, I walked, ran and cycled a cumulative total of 130 miles – one for each type of brain tumour – raising another £820 for The Charity.“
We’re so grateful to Dominique for everything she and her family are doing to help raise awareness and funds for a cure.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a brain tumour, The Brain Tumour Charity is here to support you. We offer a wide range of inclusive and accessible services for everyone affected by a brain tumour, whether it’s low or high grade, adult or child. Take a look at the 10 ways we can help.