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“I take one step at a time” – Emily’s story

At the age of 29, Emily Morris didn’t feel right – but she couldn’t quite put her finger on the problem. Neither could her doctors.

Emily’s symptoms began with a general sense that something wasn’t right, then headaches and flu symptoms, which doctors put down to a virus.

“It was nothing that seemed very sinister – just general ‘unwellness’,” said Emily. “I would sometimes get a headache but nothing that Paracetamol wouldn’t fix. And anyway, I spent most of my days sitting in front of a computer at work so headaches didn’t seem that unusual.”

Then, for no apparent reason, her resting heart rate rocketed. A baffled cardiac specialist prescribed medication to bring it down but could find no underlying cause.

When she began to experience a strange smell and taste up to 20 times a day, the next port of call was an ear, nose and throat specialist. Again, his examination uncovered nothing unusual – but he sent Emily for an MRI scan.

A few days later, expecting nothing terrible, she went alone to hear the results. A consultant told her she had a brain tumour – a glioblastoma.

“He said it was quite large and aggressive,” said Emily. “There’s not much more of that appointment I remember, really. But I do remember him saying I was to go and see a neurosurgeon very quickly.”

That was in February 2015. Emily had surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, followed by 30 sessions of radiotherapy and eight rounds of chemotherapy, ending in October the following year.

Initially, regular scans had shown that the remainder of the tumour was inactive. Then came the news that it had started to grow again – and, yet again, Emily embarked on a course of chemotherapy.

She spoke out about her experience in order to help others affected by a brain tumour and, despite living in London and receiving treatment at various hospitals in the capital, she hadn’t met anyone else with a similar diagnosis.

“One day when I was having chemotherapy the first time around, I was chatting to a woman with breast cancer. I told her I had a brain tumour and her jaw hit the floor because I looked so healthy.”

I picked myself up last time and I’m confident I’ll do it again

That’s what has spurred me on to share my story – the sense that people know so little about brain tumours. I hope that by talking about what’s happening to me I will help other people who have been diagnosed with a brain tumour to know that things can feel positive again.”

At 31, Emily also wanted to show others that life can return to something approaching normal after a brain tumour diagnosis, surgery and treatment.

“In the end, the treatment I had the last time was not as scary as I thought it was going to be. I went back to my parents’ home a week after brain surgery. I coped well with radiotherapy and chemotherapy. I was on Temozolomide for eight months and didn’t lose my hair or have any major side effects.

“I was off work for three months – I’m part of the sales team for a lighting manufacturer – and I initially went back part time but then managed to go full-time again. Yes, I’m back on chemotherapy now but I picked myself up last time and I’m confident I’ll do it again. My approach all along has been to take one step at a time – and I have always felt strongly that it’s best to be very open and honest about what’s happening.”

Emily’s parents and her two brothers have also been a source of great strength, she said.

This story was written in 2016, and sadly, Emily passed away in January 2017. But her incredible legacy lives on through the Emily Morris Fund and through her father Jack’s role as Chair of Trustees at The Brain Tumour Charity.