Emma Crabtree, 49, from Skipton in North Yorkshire started getting headaches at work and had problems with her coordination in 2009. When she lost the feeling on her left-hand side a stroke was suspected, but doctors assured her that nothing was wrong. When Emma’s headaches intensified, her mum insisted that she be given an MRI scan. The scan revealed she had a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumour and she was given just 12-18 months to live. Twelve years on, Emma is defying the odds.
Emma tells her story…
I first became aware something was wrong in early 2009 when a few odd things started happening.
I was working as a student support manager at the University of Leeds at the time, and I kept getting headaches. Other times, when folding the washing at home I noticed that my hands weren’t coordinating properly.
One day whilst driving I was unable to feel the gearstick and I had a loss of feeling on my left-hand side. My friend thought it was possibly a stroke and called an ambulance. I was taken to Leeds General Infirmary (LGI) and underwent several basic tests. The doctors thought I didn’t warrant a scan, so I returned home that evening.
“I went to Accident and Emergency three times over the next few weeks but unfortunately, I wasn’t put forward for a scan. One doctor even said: ‘Why are you coming here with a headache?’”
In May 2009, my line manager was worried about me and told me to return to my family home in Skipton. At home my headaches intensified. I was crawling on the floor to get to the bathroom and was being sick. My mum took me to Airedale General Hospital and insisted that they fit me in for an MRI scan.
“The MRI scan revealed a large mass in the right side of my brain. It was the size of an orange. Despite this terrible news, I felt relieved that at last I knew the reason for my symptoms.”
I was immediately transferred to Leeds General Infirmary where I underwent a craniotomy and debulking of the tumour. About a week after the surgery, I was told I had a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumour. The doctor said the prognosis for my tumour was 12 to 18 months.
“I was in a total state of shock, as were my family, we couldn’t believe the devastating prognosis.”
Fortunately, the University of Leeds have really looked after me, I was able to retire from my job on the grounds of ill health and receive my pension early.
On 3 July 2009, I began a six-week course of radiotherapy followed by six months of chemotherapy at St James’s University Hospital in Leeds. The treatment I received from the NHS was absolutely amazing, I am so very grateful.
I still have a yearly MRI scan. My most recent results, on 18 October 2021, showed no change in my condition, which is very positive.
“I never imagined I would survive so long; I feel I’ve got so much to be thankful for.”
My short-term memory has been affected and I’m very forgetful. I’ve also had a couple of small seizures, which are now controlled by medication, but I remain positive each day and believe that maybe this has contributed to my survival.
I am the youngest of five siblings, (I have a twin brother and three older sisters) and the support received from my family and friends has been, and continues to be, amazing. After my treatment, I took a trip to New York with my siblings and my mum to spend some quality time together.
I try to make the most of my life by keeping active and healthy. I have done several 100-mile walks with a couple of friends and have travelled a lot over the past 12 years to some amazing places such as Alaska, Canada, Fiji and Australia. Unfortunately, coronavirus put an end to my travels in 2019.
In lockdown I decided to try and fulfil a long-time ambition of mine to write, illustrate and self-publish a children’s book, what better way could there be to raise money for Brain Tumour Research! This was a challenge and a real learning curve, but I found it really enjoyable. My book is based on my stray cat ‘Big Boy’ who I took into my heart and home.
A proportion of my book sales is donated to YBTC my local brain tumour charity in Leeds to help to raise as much money as possible towards this devastating disease. My book “Big Boy’s Birthday Walk” is available via my webpage.
I hope my story will offer some inspiration, positivity and hope to others suffering from a brain tumour.
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.
Together we will find a cure