A FOOTBALL fan who gave up his dream of becoming a professional football player when he developed a brain tumor at age eight has spoken of the importance of awareness of the signs of the condition.
Rhys Holmes, of Newport, now 32 years old, advocates for The Brain Tumor Charity’s new Better Safe than Tumor campaign.
The campaign aims to raise public awareness of the potential signs and symptoms and have any worrisome or persistent symptoms examined by a physician.
Holmes was only eight years old when he began to experience symptoms, including headaches, difficulty concentrating, nausea, fatigue and vision problems.
Initially, the GP attributed his symptoms to a virus, but then suggested going to the optician. The backs of his eyes were swollen so Mr Holmes was referred to an eye clinic. A CT scan then found the brain tumor.
He had surgery to remove what was confirmed as a low-grade pilocytic astrocytoma, but due to various complications, he was also diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a buildup of fluid in the brain.
He was given a shunt to drain it and doctors said it wouldn’t be safe for him to play football anymore.
Mr. Holmes was also diagnosed with superficial siderosis, a rare condition that causes slow bleeding in the spinal fluid and leads to neural damage.
This is presumably the result of his operation. All of this has resulted in Mr Holmes now being completely deaf and also suffering from fatigue and reduced mobility.
He said: “When I think back to my childhood, when my symptoms first started, I realize how ignorant both my parents and GPs were of the symptoms of brain tumors.
“I was so young when I was diagnosed and I had to go back and forth to the GP for weeks. We were always told it was a virus, but I was getting worse every day.
“I often wonder if previous studies, such as a neurological intervention, could have reduced or even prevented some of the conditions that will impact me for the rest of my life.
“I know that the symptoms of brain tumors are so often dismissed as anything else and not fully explored what should stop.
“I strongly believe that if a doctor isn’t sure what the problem could be, they should either get a second opinion or refer the person for testing. Even within the medical community and the general public, there’s a lot that we must do to highlight the signs and symptoms of this terrible disease.”
More than 12,000 people are diagnosed with a brain tumor in the UK each year, with nearly 5,000 people losing their lives each year from the disease.
In adults, symptoms include persistent or severe headache that may be worse in the morning, vision changes including blurred and double vision, fatigue, nausea, speech difficulties and seizures. In children, symptoms may also include problems with balance, coordination or walking, loss of taste and smell, abnormal head position, frequent nausea, especially in the morning, and excessive thirst.
In addition, about 40 percent of cases are still diagnosed in the emergency room and there was an increase in emergency presentations in 2020 due to the pandemic.
It is hoped that the campaign will support more people to recognize the symptoms and visit their GP to rule out a brain tumor, and ensure that those who do have a brain tumor can receive the diagnosis and care as soon as possible. and get the support they need.
For more information on the possible signs and symptoms of a brain tumor, visit www.headsmart.org.uk.