FAM­ILY HIT BY DOU­BLE CAN­CER PAIN

Western Mail - - FRONT PAGE - MARK SMITH Health cor­re­spon­dent [email protected]­line.co.uk

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

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