Laura Liver

4 min read

After experiencing hot flushes and dizzy spells, 35-year-old Laura Liver from Heysham, Lancashire, thought she was coming down with a virus.  An MRI scan revealed she had an astrocytoma and Laura underwent surgery followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Seven years later, in March 2023, Laura had a seizure for the first time in years; a subsequent scan showed her tumour had grown. Another scan in August showed further growth in a different part of her brain.

Laura Liver Case Study - Brain Tumour Research

Laura tells her story…

Life always throws you curve balls when you least expect it and, in August 2016, I received the devastating news I had a brain tumour.

Eight months earlier, I started to not feel like myself as I travelled home from a holiday in Australia. My mum and I were waiting for our connecting flight at Abu Dhabi Airport when I began to feel light-headed and started shaking. I brushed it off, thinking I might need something to eat or that I was coming down with a virus from being on the plane.

Laura Liver In Hope Case Study - Brain Tumour Research

I thought I would be back to my old self within a few hours, but these waves of feeling unwell kept returning over the coming weeks.

“By Christmas, my hands were shaking regularly, and I was experiencing dizzy spells and severe hot flushes. I even had to drive with the car windows open to try to regulate my temperature." 

My doctor could not find any cause for the symptoms and even took a blood test to be sure. When the results came back clear I thought it must just be me and it would get better on its own over time.

“By March, I was having these ‘seizures’ seven times a day, but at worst I could experience nearly 30. My doctor ran more tests, but still couldn’t find the cause."

Laura Live In Hope Astrocytoma - Brain Tumour Research  

He referred me to Wakefield Hospital to see a specialist. Still, there was nothing which could pin down my symptoms and while I was ready to leave it and do my best to carry on, my husband Marc and my mum insisted kept going until I had an answer.

After meeting with the doctor again, they felt that an MRI scan would be a good next step.I think I knew something was wrong when I walked into the room to get my results later that day. It was then that they said they had found something on my brain and believed it to be a tumour.

It was two days later that I sat down with the consultant neurosurgeon and shown my scans.

“When I saw the image, I let out a gasp and the news of the tumour hit me. There was a black mass, the size of an apple, on the left-hand side of my brain and it was then the consultant confirmed it was definitely a tumour.”

Laura Liver Case Study Astrocytoma - Brain Tumour Research

I just remember Mum crying next to me as Marc held my hand.

The name they gave to my tumour was an astrocytoma, they believed it was low-grade and no action was needed right away. They would just watch and wait to see if the tumour grew or changed over the coming months, which was nerve-racking, but I just wanted to feel better.

A few weeks later we met with the neurosurgery team again and I underwent lots of assessments to test my vision, balance, coordination and memory. The diagnosis also meant the loss of my drivers’ licence which was frustrating and made getting to work more challenging.

Over the following six months I had further scans to check the tumour. In November 2016, I underwent an MRI scan where they tested how my brain was functioning using colours and words to test my memory and creativity. It was an odd experience being told to imagine walking down a road and remembering what you saw.

Laura Liver In Hope Case Study Astrocytoma - Brain Tumour Research

A routine scan in February 2017 showed the tumour had grown a little. My doctor felt surgery was the best option. Though I had been told that there was a chance the tumour might grow back, I was still really pleased to be having the operation. I underwent surgery in March 2017; the procedure went well, and they managed to remove 90% of the tumour. Recovery was tough over the following months as I tried to get my life back to some normality.

In September 2017, a routine scan showed the small amount of tumour that had been left behind after surgery was growing again. I always try to be positive, so I was very pragmatic, saying ‘what’s next?’

From November 2017 to January 2018, I underwent radiotherapy to help shrink the tumour.

“Although they tell you the side effects of the treatment, I don’t think you can really prepare yourself for how you are going to feel. Being in the shower and having clumps of my beautiful long hair come out in my hands came as a shock.”

Laura Liver Astrocytoma Case Study - Brain Tumour Research

To gain control, and also to feel good about myself, I chose to shave my hair off as it seemed pointless keeping it. I also took it as an opportunity to help other people and raise money for Brain Tumour Research. I also donated my hair to the Little Princess Trust, which makes wigs for children with cancer. It was quite funny looking in the mirror and watching Marc cut off the two pigtails of hair and then shave my head.

When you are told about radiotherapy, they do advise you to take it easy, as many people feel tired, sick and run-down. Though for me it was the low mood swings which were hardest to bear. I’m naturally an upbeat, happy and positive person, but after the radiotherapy I was hit with moments of utter sadness and such a negative outlook. Having Marc, my family and friends supporting me has been vital for helping me stay on track, remain positive and keep going.

In January 2018, I began 12 months of chemotherapy. This wore me down; the effect of the treatment still makes me feel tired today. After the chemotherapy, I had MRI scans every six months; everything was going fine until March 2023. I hadn’t been feeling too good and I had a seizure for the first time in years. A scan at Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) showed the tumour had grown; the consultant said he was confident it had progressed to become a grade 3.

In April, I started a course of chemotherapy, Temozolomide, but a scan in July showed the tumour had grown again, meaning the treatment hadn’t worked. I was then moved onto PCV chemotherapy.

Laura Liver Astrocytoma In Hope Case Study - Brain Tumour Research

On 12 October 2023, Marc and I visited Brain Tumour Research’s Centre of Excellence at Imperial College, London.

“It was so interesting to see the work the researchers are doing. They are an amazing team and it’s great to learn about the new things they’re investigating.” 

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours since records began in 2002.

So far, I’ve raised more than £5,500 to fund research, through a variety of events including a skydive I did with Marc in Lancaster in September 2022.

“The money I’ve raised is to help everyone affected by brain tumours because the more we put into it, the more we’ll get out.”

Marc and I also placed a tile, representative of the £2,740 it costs to fund each day of research, on the centre’s Wall of Hope. It was a really poignant moment. It further stresses how important money is to research brain tumours. The Government needs to do more and certainly needs to fairly distribute its cancer funding.

I don’t know what the future will hold or if I will have to have more treatment, but for now I feel lucky that I have a great support around me to face whatever comes my way.

Laura Liver  
October 2023

Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age. What’s more, they kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer... yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Brain Tumour Research is determined to change this.

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