FAMILY HIT BY DOUBLE CANCER PAIN
AFTER spending almost his entire life getting treatment for leukaemia, Scott Adams and his family were overjoyed when he was finally given the all-clear in 2017.
But just a year later his wife Martine started complaining of problems with her back. Within months she was diagnosed with a rare, life-limiting form of cancer herself.
It means the childhood sweethearts, who are parents to two young boys aged nine and six, are facing a second battle with the disease which has entered Martine’s spine and brain.
“All you can do is be as mentally strong as possible in the hope of overcoming this,” said Martine, 28.
“Of course I don’t want my children to live without their mum, which is my main priority and worry.
“People know me as the silliest, lifeloving, most random person ever – genuinely one of a kind. And that won’t change.”
Aerospace engineer Scott, from Barry, was struck down with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the white blood cells, when he was two-and-a-half years old.
He was treated soon after diagnosis through an autologous stem cell transplant, in which the patient’s own stems cells are used to combat the cancer cells.
After making good progress he was required to visit hospital regularly to check the cancer had not returned – and at the age of 28 he was finally discharged for good.
“It was a huge relief for us,” said Martine, who met Scott through mutual friends when she was 17.
“When he was very young he needed chemotherapy and was told he could never have children as a result, but nurses at the hospital were completely shocked when we ended up having two. They are such a blessing.”
At the same time as hearing this good news, 30-year-old Scott was found to have a heart condition called cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle that affects around 160,000 people in the UK.
It was at this point that Martine said she wishes she had taken out life insurance for herself.
“It was on my to do list but time just flashed by. For whatever reason I didn’t take it out,” she added. “If I can push just one family to get insurance before it’s too late then telling my story will be worthwhile.”
During the school summer holidays last year Martine said she began suffering terrible pains in her back and went to the GP.
“I never go to the doctors unless I’m very, very unwell, which isn’t often at all,” she added.
“My back was so bad that I was cramped over like an old woman. But it didn’t feel peculiar at all.”
For several months Martine underwent several scans and blood tests only to be told her back pain was “a mystery”.
“They did every test possible so they weren’t palming me off or anything. I can’t fault their efforts,” she added.
“I began to get terrible pressure headaches too and I was diagnosed with idiopathic intracranial hypertension. But it was when they did the lumbar puncture that the ball really started rolling.”
Doctors discovered that Martine’s spinal fluid was yellow – when it should have been clear – and she was sent for an emergency MRI which found a mass at the base of her spinal cord.
It would require her to undergo emergency surgery at the University Hospital of Wales (UHW) in Cardiff.
“I kept getting told that it was possibly benign but they’d not seen anything like this before,” she added.
“I felt OK apart from the possible risk factors which included paralysis or incontinence for life. I was putting my life in their hands.”
Three days before the vital operation Martine said a member of staff in UHW’s surgical team fell ill, so the decision was made to transfer her to Southmead Hospital in Bristol.
It was there that two further MRI scans found more masses further up her spinal cord and in her brain.
She added: “That’s when I was very shocked and thought there was something more sinister inside me.”
On November 29 last year masseuse Martine underwent surgery to remove the large tumour from the base of her spine, which was thought to be the cause of the pain.
But not all of it could be taken out, as part of it was matted within important nerve endings.
“I cannot praise the hospital highly enough,” said Martine. “Everyone, from the cleaners to the doctors, were fabulous on ward 6B.”
Thankfully Martine and Scott, who tied the knot in 2016, were able to enjoy Christmas with their two children Cai, nine, and Parker, six, before Martine was asked to go back to Bristol to receive the news she’d been dreading.
On January 2 she was diagnosed with diffuse leptomeningeal glironeuronal tumour, an extremely rare tumour of the central nervous system.
“They don’t really know much about the behaviour of the tumour, so it could become aggressive at any time. A lot of things are left unanswered at the moment,” she said.
“We are very family-oriented, so it pains me that I cannot tell my grandmother that I have cancer, as she has Alzheimer’s.”
Because the family are unable to get life insurance a GoFundMe page was set up for them by friend Kate Hughes.
Within just 24 hours of the page being live a staggering £10,000 was donated – mostly from residents in Barry and the surrounding area.
“As a family we are completely overwhelmed,” Martine added.
“We need to make as many memories as possible right now. I have already made a bucket list, as I’ve been told my cancer is life-limiting.”
As well as taking her family to Disneyland Paris, Martine has set her sights on performing with her local amateur dramatic group called Billboard, pulling a pint in a pub, and getting another tattoo.
Some of the money may also be used to fly her younger brother Richard home from Australia to spend time with the family.
Martine is set to start her first course of chemotherapy at Velindre Cancer Centre next Monday.
■ If you would like to help go to www.gofundme.com/f/help-martine-make-memories-livinginthenow