Real life: ‘We told our girl she had a brain tu­mour on Christ­mas Day’

Jenny Day, 51, re­vealed the worst pos­si­ble news, on what should have been the hap­pi­est day of the year

Woman's Weekly (UK) - - HELLO! -

As Jenny Day watched her 15year-old daugh­ter, Amanda, open­ing presents un­der the tree, she tried her best to ap­pear happy and calm. For Amanda, it was a Christ­mas Day just like any other. But be­hind Jenny’s smile, she knew the hor­ror that was to come. That she was about to ruin her daugh­ter’s favourite day of the year…

Back in April 2013, Amanda was a busy teenager.

‘When she wasn’t per­form­ing in danc­ing shows, she’d be watch­ing her favourite film, Step Up, with her big sis­ter, Re­becca,’ says Jenny. ‘She was re­vis­ing for her GCSEs – she wanted to study art at col­lege – and, while she was ner­vous, I knew she’d do well. My hus­band, Gary, and I were so proud.’

But then, Amanda be­gan com­plain­ing of headaches. As a suf­ferer her­self, Jenny thought she’d in­her­ited them from her and, know­ing they can be brought on by hor­mones, she thought Amanda would grow out of them. But they only got worse – she’d have a headache ev­ery day and soon she was get­ting back­ache too. Dur­ing the sum­mer hol­i­days, rather than go­ing shop­ping with her friends, all she wanted to do was lie on the sofa.

And then, in Septem­ber 2013, Jenny had just got home from do­ing the weekly shop when the phone rang

– it was Amanda’s school. They said she’d col­lapsed after com­plain­ing of a headache.

When Jenny ar­rived at the school gates 10 min­utes later, she saw Amanda be­ing stretchered into an am­bu­lance, con­scious but upset.

At the hos­pi­tal, the CT scan came back clear. ‘The con­sul­tant said it was just a

bad mi­graine,’ re­mem­bers Jenny.

‘We were sent home with painkillers and an ap­point­ment for a rou­tine fol­low-up in two months’ time.’

But de­spite the doc­tor’s di­ag­no­sis, in the weeks that fol­lowed Amanda started hav­ing pains in her legs, and her vi­sion be­came blurry. So, in Novem­ber 2013, at the fol­low-up ap­point­ment, Jenny de­manded Amanda was given an MRI scan.

It was sched­uled for 22 De­cem­ber. In the mean­time, though, the fam­ily pre­pared for Christ­mas as usual, and three days be­fore went for the scan as ar­ranged.

But then, on Christ­mas Eve, Jenny was peel­ing pota­toes when the phone rang. It was the con­sul­tant from the hos­pi­tal.

‘I didn’t want Re­becca or Amanda to over­hear, so I went up­stairs,’ says Jenny.

‘The con­sul­tant said, “I’m

‘I’d rush into the bath­room and cry’

so sorry but Amanda has a brain tu­mour.” She’d need to go to hos­pi­tal on Box­ing Day, and would need surgery.’

As Jenny put the phone down, she felt her legs give way. ‘I couldn’t be­lieve this was re­ally hap­pen­ing,’ she says. ‘Then Gary came into the room, and sat on the floor next to me and, after telling him the news, we held each other and sobbed.’

‘It was such aw­ful tim­ing,’ says Jenny. ‘To­mor­row was Christ­mas Day and Amanda was so ex­cited – the first time I’d seen her smile in months. I thought I can’t ruin her Christ­mas.’

So, Jenny and Gary de­cided that they’d pro­tect Amanda from the truth. Wip­ing away their tears, they went back down­stairs and pre­tended ev­ery­thing was nor­mal.

The next morn­ing, as Amanda opened her gifts Gary started film­ing her on his phone. ‘I tried not to cry – I knew it was be­cause he thought this Christ­mas might be her last,’ says Jenny. ‘I forced a smile as we toasted with Cham­pagne and tucked into turkey and all the trim­mings. If I felt my re­solve wa­ver­ing, I’d rush to the bath­room and cry.’

But by that af­ter­noon, the cou­ple knew they couldn’t keep the se­cret any longer – they had to go to the hos­pi­tal the next day and Amanda needed to be pre­pared. Even so, Jenny felt so guilty.

‘I didn’t know how she’d re­act,’ says Jenny. ‘But she sim­ply sighed. “At least we know what it is now”, she said. See­ing her so strong, I felt so proud. I knew it then that my girl was a fighter.’ The fam­ily were at hos­pi­tal early on Box­ing Day. A de­tailed MRI scan re­vealed that the tu­mour was on Amanda’s brain stem, which af­fects vi­sion, breath­ing, move­ment and con­scious­ness. Four days later, she had an op­er­a­tion to re­move it.

After five hours, they were given the good news. The op­er­a­tion was a suc­cess, and the sur­gi­cal team had re­moved 90% of the tu­mour.

Amanda’s re­cov­ery was long, and while Gary went to work as a me­chanic Jenny stayed with her ev­ery sin­gle day. She caught in­fec­tions and needed fur­ther surgery to re­move fluid from her brain. And sadly, they learnt that the tu­mour would have last­ing ef­fects. Amanda would suf­fer with fa­tigue and de­lays in her learn­ing.

But slowly, Amanda con­tin­ued to im­prove. The headaches dis­ap­peared, and she grew stronger. In Feb­ru­ary 2014, she be­gan an in­ten­sive course of ra­dio­ther­apy. ‘She had to have the treat­ment five days a week for six weeks,’ says Jenny. ‘But – as ever – Amanda didn’t get upset or ques­tion why this was hap­pen­ing to her.’

And fi­nally, in April 2014, Amanda’s treat­ment was over. ‘The tu­mour hasn’t com­pletely gone – be­cause of its po­si­tion­ing, and the fact that it has a blood sup­ply – it means it will al­ways be there, and may grow again in the fu­ture,’ says Jenny. ‘But for now, she’s sta­ble and con­tin­ues to have scans ev­ery year.’

Although it’s hard not to think back to that ter­ri­ble day, the fam­ily are do­ing their best to move for­ward. ‘Ev­ery year, I’m re­minded of how lucky we are,’ says Jenny. ‘Christ­mas is a time for be­ing with the ones you love – I’m so glad that our won­der­ful daugh­ter is still with us.’

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit brain­tu­mour­re­search.org

Amanda had her op­er­a­tion just days later

Years gone by: Amanda has al­ways been a fan of Christ­mas

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