Blog: My brain tumour journey

Published 10 Jan 2023
Written by
David Stubbs
Staffordshire Police
Reading time
10 mins

This blog is from David Stubbs from Staffordshire Police. David, who was diagnosed with a brain tumour, shares his journey and talks positively about the importance of getting checked out if you don't feel well and how good supervision can assist recovery.

David Stubbs

I’m David, I’m 43, a married a dad of four. I work for Staffordshire Police as a detective in CID dealing with serious and complex investigations and I have 22 years’ service. Without the support of my wife Rachel, I would never have come as far as I have in my journey and recovery.

My diagnosis

I had been suffering from headaches for several years. Around nine years ago I started to change, I became fixated on work but as I was so busy, I just carried on, unaware that these changes in my personality and the way I was working were a symptom of something more serious.

In June 2021 I tested positive for Covid, at first, I had no symptoms, however, two days in I had what I can only describe as an explosion in my head. The pressure was horrendous, and my head felt like it was in a vice.

This continued for several weeks so I contacted my GP, as I thought I may have long Covid. I had lost strength in my right arm, was struggling to lift it over my head and couldn’t clench my fist properly.

My GP sent me for an urgent CT scan. Two weeks later I was told, over the phone, as Covid had stopped face to face appointments, that I had a brain tumour.

David Stubbs brain tumour scan

I was absolutely devastated and the news completely floored me. I had gone in a split second from a hard-working guy with my whole future mapped out to realising very quickly that life would never be the same again for me, or my family.

I was told by the specialist, that due to the size of the tumour (as big as a satsuma), the only treatment available to me was emergency surgery, which would be risky due to the location of the tumour, and if I survived the operation, the recovery would be long, and it was likely I would have ongoing issues.

The initial date for my surgery saw me being sent home from hospital due to a lack of critical care beds, so it was rescheduled for 16 September 2021. Due to the levels of Covid in the hospital, I wasn’t allowed visitors and had to say goodbye to my wife in the waiting room, which was hard.

Despite some complications, surgery went well. The tumour had wrapped itself around the main vein in my brain and during the procedure I had substantial blood loss, this meant they didn’t manage to remove it all. The biopsy showed that the tumour was a grade 1 meningioma and because there was only a small bit left behind, other treatment options would be available if the tumour began to grow in the future. 

David Stubbs in hospital

I was sent home quite quickly, and received care at home, mainly from my wife, being in familiar surroundings with my family around me and being in sole control of the TV remote, helped my recovery .

I was told that I’d had the tumour for between nine to 15 years and if left much longer wrapped around the vein, I was only months if not weeks away from collapse.

I know I am very fortunate to get a second chance of life, I had a close call and am one of the very few people that can say Covid actually saved me.

Understanding the symptoms

I felt it was important to share my story, to raise awareness and encourage others, who may be presenting with similar symptoms, to seek help and advice as early as possible from their GP.

Looking back, a number of things now make sense, and I realise I had been displaying symptoms for some time:

  • I had headaches a number of times a week. These would occur most days and sometimes last all day despite taking painkillers.
  • I felt tired but still struggled to sleep.
  • My personality changed as well. I became fixated on things like work. I was always working and had to get involved in every investigation.
  • I would flit from one thing to another. I would often rant in emails.
  • I had pins and needles in my thigh which I used to put down to nerve damage following an earlier injury.
  • I gained a large amount of weight and had problems with my vision. I was initially diagnosed with type two diabetes.
  • My blood pressure was high. All this was put down to stress at work, poor health, and poor work life balance.

So how am I now?

Although I look physically well and healthy there have been lots of changes to my daily life.

  • I can no longer drive.
  • I take numerous tablets each day and I need help from my wife to ensure I take the right ones as I become easily confused.
  • I often find conversation is very draining and sometimes struggle to get my words out.
  • I find it difficult to concentrate when other people are talking.
  • My energy levels can be very low.
  • I am forgetful and struggle with simple instructions and tasks that I used to take for granted, such as preparing food and turning the oven off.
  • I still have difficulty lying down. I can’t lie on my left side or spend more than 1 to 1.5 hours in bed. I tend to sleep in a reclining chair.
  • I feel exhausted but can’t switch off.
  • I can get very anxious and agitated for no reason. I have had meltdowns that come over me without warning and I can’t stop them. It can be very embarrassing which in turn make me more anxious.
  • The worse impact has been on my career. I struggle to process information and follow instructions. I love reading but I struggle now because I get brain fog and I feel pressure building in my head. I often misread words and it takes me a while to interpret what I am reading. I also have trouble writing.
  • I have been told that it is likely my days of frontline policing are over. I now have to manage what my day to day life and career will look like going forward.
  • I still have a weakness down my right side. My grip is weak and so is my leg.

You hear of the phrase hidden disability banded around all the time and to be honest I never really understood it until now. 

However, there have been some positives since my diagnosis:

  • Work, especially my supervisors, have been very supportive to myself and my family.
  • Staffordshire Police Federation have also been extremely supportive and helped me every step of the way.
  • I have attended the Police Treatment Centre in Auchterarder, Scotland three times since my surgery, two weeks on their wellbeing programme and then for four weeks physio, this has really made a difference.
  • I have had a lot of support from a small but brilliant brain tumour charity called Brain Tumour Support The charity fills a massive void left by the NHS by providing support to anyone affected by a brain tumour, at any point from the diagnosis and for as long as support is needed. They not only support the patients themselves but also families, carers and loved ones who are dealing with the day to day impact of a brain tumour.
  • The number of headaches I have had since surgery I can count on one hand. My blood pressure has significantly dropped and I have started to lose weight.

Support from Staffordshire Police

The support I have received from Staffordshire Police has been outstanding.

I worked in a very busy CID office with high workload and demand. Both my supervisors, acting DS Dave Jackson and DI Pete Cooke were brilliant and from my diagnosis kept in weekly contact, they visited me regularly and during my recovery would sometimes pick me up and take me out for a coffee. They encouraged colleagues to pop and see me from time to time too. They also helped to reduce my stress and anxiety when I had to deal with the possibility of going onto half pay by ensuring I didn’t receive unnecessary letters and managed to delay this reduction in income. I cannot thank them enough.

Moving forward

I know I will never be the person I was, I have learnt to slow down and appreciate the people around me. I have become much closer to my family who have been amazing, my marriage is much stronger, and my life is good.

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