Ian Cutts, 62, from Ware in Hertfordshire, loves keeping fit and he can often be found going on long bike rides, runs and walks. He was keen to keep this going around the restrictions in place during the start of the Covid pandemic.
On one such walk in April 2020, Ian went on a longer route than usual to call in at the supermarket. When he was around 300 yards from home, he started to feel unwell. He managed to get home and put his key in the front door before he collapsed. His partner found him on the doorstep and so she called an ambulance.
The ambulance arrived within five minutes so the paramedics and Ian’s partner, Anne, helped Ian to walk into the house. Ian was able to answer the paramedic’s questions and chat with his partner, but he has no recollection of this. In fact, his first memory is of being in the ambulance and wondering which hospital they were going to, rather than thinking why was he in an ambulance in the first place.
They arrived at Queen’s Alexander Hospital in Harlow and, after a 90 minute wait to be let inside due to Covid restrictions, Ian went in on his own as Anne wasn’t allowed to join him. As this was Ian’s first fit, the consultant gave him some information and also sent him for a CT scan. This scan found a mass on Ian’s brain so he was admitted for observations for four days. During this time, he had an MRI scan and the results of which were sent to the oncology department at Queen’s Hospital in Romford. He was also given anti-seizure medication.
Ian was sent home as, aside from feeling tired, he was generally well in himself. He heard from the medical team early the following week who confirmed that Ian had a tumour behind his right ear but that it appeared to be low-grade and slow-growing. He was given the option of surgery or to watch and wait to see if the tumour caused further problems – he opted to have the surgery.
Ian had the six-hour operation a few weeks later at the end of May. In the meantime, he enjoyed being back at home and continuing to get his daily exercise although he made sure he wasn’t unaccompanied, as he would usually be, just in case of another seizure.
The operation successfully removed all of the tumour and a biopsy then confirmed it to be a Glioblastoma. This is a fast-growing and high grade tumour type – contrary to what the doctors had first thought about Ian’s condition.
Ian said: “I felt completely back to normal within a week or so after the operation. In fact, straight after the operation, I felt a bit tired but I was speaking to my friends on WhatsApp and sharing the in-jokes we have between us so they all knew I was OK.
“Finding out the tumour was high-grade was a shock. Things had been really positive after the successful operation and then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t. It’s baffling really that all this was going on yet I never really felt unwell at all.”
Ian had been considering retiring having spent 42 years working in banking. Following the operation, he decided this was the right thing to do, although he admits he finds the days boring sometimes. It does give him more time to spend with Anne who, at the time, lived in Liverpool. This also meant that Ian could get out and about as Anne drove and Ian had to give up his licence following his diagnosis.
In July, Ian started courses of both chemotherapy and radiotherapy and he was assigned a CNS to provide help and support should he need it. The treatment went smoothly and he didn’t have any significant side-effects from it aside from a little continuing tiredness. After one chemotherapy session, Ian was even able to go straight on a bike ride around Epping Forest with a friend. He also took part in regular Park Runs throughout his course of treatment.
Ian said: “Sometimes when I would go to have treatment I would feel like a bit of a fraud, as I would see and speak to people who were having much more serious side effects than I did. I wasn’t feeling like many other people were – and I know that I am lucky not to have been adversely affected by it.
“I think my positive mentality may have helped to minimise the impact it all had on me physically. I haven’t gone into a spiral of feeling sorry for myself as I have been able to get out and do what I would normally do. I would advise others to do the same – do what is normal for them. After a diagnosis is not the right time to try something new, but if you can keep your usual routine going, particularly the enjoyable parts, then it may help you too.”
Ian found out about The Brain Tumour Charity as his treatment came to an end in August. Since then, he has been fundraising for us by taking part in the London Duathlon and he has also been sharing his experiences as part of the organisation’s Involvement Network to help inform its next strategy.
He now has regular scans to monitor his condition – the last one showed a small shadow which is soon to be confirmed as either scar tissue or regrowth which may require further treatment.
Ian added: “The Brain Tumour Charity has been a great source of information on what could happen following my diagnosis. I am sure its range of services are hugely beneficial to those who need them and their dedication to finding a cure for brain tumours is my motivation to support them.”