Suzanne Davies, 40, from Aberdeen, wasn’t willing to accept that she was going to die.
Talking with my husband Owen one day, I suddenly couldn’t understand a word he was saying. It was the strangest sensation. I could hear he was speaking, I just couldn’t make out the words.
Less than a minute later, I was back to normal.
‘Are you OK?’ Owen, 45, asked, concerned. ‘Fine,’ I stammered. But this wasn’t the first time it had happened.
I’d been having these strange absent moments for a few months now. They’d started in early 2014.
During the episodes, I’d lose my speech, too. I thought I was talking normally, but it was actually total gibberish.
That wasn’t the only worrying symptom.
I’d send text messages to my friends and they didn’t make any sense. And I couldn’t understand the ones sent back to me. That’s so
strange, I thought. I was a mum to my son, Max, then seven, and Lauren, four.
I worked as a treasury assistant and was always on the go, so I put it down to stress.
But by that April, I was suffering with painful migraines.
I was also waking up at night, unable to breathe.
My GP referred me to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, where I had an MRI scan. Laying still
in the daunting machine, it occurred to me that this could be serious. And it was. ‘We’ve found a mass on your brain,’ the doctor said.
Owen, a graphic designer, completely broke down. My heart started pounding. ‘OK,’ I stammered, unable to figure out what else to say. What if it was cancer?
Doctors wanted to perform an operation so they could get a closer look at the mass.
Given the choice, I decided to stay awake for the procedure to give it a better chance of success.
It was surreal to be looking around theatre as surgeons operated on my brain.
After the surgery, the consultant didn’t have good news for us. He explained I had a type of
high-grade brain tumour called glioblastoma. The grade-four tumour was the size of a golf ball on the left side of my brain. It was sitting on the part of the brain that controls speech, which explained my struggles to talk and my absent moments. Though surgeons managed to remove 95 per cent of it, they couldn’t reach the rest, and it was extremely aggressive.
‘I’m so sorry, but you may have just a year to live,’ the consultant said, quietly.
‘With treatment you may have eight weeks longer than that.’
Owen scooped me up into his arms in tears, but I was numb. How was this happening? I was only 35. The feeling of time running out was suffocating.
Then I thought about Max and Lauren.
If I did only have a year left with them, I was going to jam-pack it with enough memories to last a lifetime.
And despite my grim prognosis, I was determined to fight for them.
‘I want to see my children grow up,’ I said to Owen. Mums don’t just give up. We have a strength inside us that defies any odds.
The good news was that the surgery put an end to my absent moments, so I could speak and hear just fine.
And the awful headaches were gone, too, so I could concentrate on staying strong. Chemo and radiotherapy were gruelling and I lost my shoulder-length blonde hair.
I know it shouldn’t matter, but it’s like losing a part of your identity – suddenly looking ‘ill’ when you catch your reflection.
Trying to stay positive, I experimented with wigs and had plenty of laughs as well as tears.
I was put in touch with CLAN Cancer Support, a local cancer charity supporting cancer patients and their families. They were amazing. They arranged counselling sessions for the kids at school. They also offered therapeutic treatments for me, such as Swedish massage and reiki.
Chemo and radiotherapy succeeded in stabilising my tumour, but it wasn’t easy.
The treatments triggered early menopause, disintegration of my pituitary gland, low immunity levels and a thyroid condition.
There were days when I couldn’t even get out of bed, let alone take part in sports that I used to love. It was a long, difficult journey, but, four years after my grim prognosis, I’m still here!
I’ve just celebrated my 40th birthday which was such a huge milestone for me.
I used the occasion to raise more money for CLAN Cancer Support.
I felt I needed to give something back after all they did for me and my family through such a difficult time.
The tumour will never fully go away, but my doctors say that it is at least stable.
I’m still having fun and making beautiful memories with my family.
They have been amazing and I’m so proud of my brave kids, Max, now 11 and Lauren, now eight.
I have scans every six months and I struggle with short-term memory and fatigue.
But none of that is going to hold me back from being a mum or stop me from being positive.
Not when I have so many incredible people to live for.
I’m fighting for all the extra time I can have with my family, and there’s no stronger force to beat this. Suzanne is raising money for CLAN Cancer Support. To donate, visit justgiving.com/ crowdfunding/clansuze.
I wasn't giving up
Owen was heartbroken I'm fighting for my family
Making special memories
The tumour will always be there