Sheffield father fundraising for life-saving cancer therapy

A Sheffield father is fundraising to undergo an advanced form of radiotherapy to treat his brain tumour.

Stephen Brooks, 46, was recently told that his cancer had shown signs of regrowth after an MRI scan in July.

Stephen’s first surgery to treat a brain tumour in 2012 left him with a permanent disability.

Regarding recovery from his first surgery, Stephen said: “I spent the best part of two years in rehab, I couldn’t walk for a couple of weeks, I couldn’t speak properly for a year. It affected my whole right side and I still have limited use in my arm and no use in my right hand wrist or fingers.

“My first 6 months post-surgery in 2012 were the hardest. I was in hospital for a total of nine weeks.”

The surgery team explained to Stephen that the issue was not anyone’s fault, but that he lay within the 5% error margins of the surgery.

Stephen likened the surgery to signing his life away, and was frustrated that of all people that it happened to him.

After surgery, he was dealing with home visits from physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists for six months, and was referred to the Sheffield Community Brain Injury Rehabilitation Team (SCBIRT) for 18 months.

SCBIRT is a specialist community team in Sheffield working with people who have had a traumatic injury, along with their families and carers.

The team work with people who are re-establishing themselves back into their community soon after a brain injury or a minor head injury, and also with people who may have had an injury many years before and have identified things that they want to change which the team can help with.

Stephen’s second surgery in October 2018 was an awake craniotomy, in which a disc was cut from his skull, in order to allow access for surgery on his brain.

An awake craniotomy was preferred to a normal craniotomy, due to this allowing the surgeon to test portions of the brain before removing or altering them.

This is done to minimise the risk of brain damage, which was extremely important to Stephen considering the disabilities he had faced after his previous surgery.

They removed as much of the affected tissue as possible and took tissues to be sent for a biopsy.

Stephen was told by his surgeon that his recovery for this procedure would be far less of an ordeal than the last surgery, and he was discharged three days later.

This was difficult for Stephen, as these relevant advances made in regards to brain surgery were not available to him in 2012.

Stephen was then called in a week later and told that his tumour had changed from a non-cancerous benign stage 2 tumour to a cancerous malignant stage 3 tumour, confirming that his cancer had returned.

The NHS want to treat Stephen with 6 weeks of radiotherapy followed with 8 months of chemotherapy.

Radiotherapy however isn’t an isolated treatment and has the potential to affect and damage healthy brain tissues as well as the cancerous ones, which could cause both short term and long term issues with the brain.

Stephen mentioned that: “The reality is I want to stay as I am for as long as possible, sharing and making memories with my beautiful family, and not be further compromised.”

After a lengthy look into alternative forms of treatment, Proton Beam Therapy (PBT) stuck out to Stephen.

PBT is a form of radiotherapy in which high energy beams of radiation are fired at the affected areas only.

This form of therapy is not only more targeted than conventional radiotherapy, but also offers far less short-term and long-term side effects.

PBT is not currently available on the NHS, even though a centre made solely for the treatment was opened in Manchester this year.

Stephen was a hair stylist for 22 years, working at high profile salons as a respected individual within his trade.

He then had to take a job working in admin at the NHS, due to the disabilities he suffered to his right side as a result of his first surgery.

Stephen has a wife and a young child, who was born in January of this year.

He can’t afford to be off work and have ongoing treatment, and even PBT is expected to keep him away from work for 10 months.

Stephen’s wife Emma has been on maternity leave and is due to be heading back into work imminently, which is sure to add more strain to Stephen.

Stephen and his family have created a Just Giving page where they’ve reached 7% of their £75,000 goal for Stephen to undergo PBT privately.