A FOOTBALL fan who had his dreams of becoming a professional player dashed when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor aged eight has spoken about the importance of awareness of the signs of the condition.
Now aged 32, Rhys Holmes, from Newport, is championing The Brain Tumor Charity’s new Better Safe than Tumor campaign.
The campaign aims to support the public to be aware of the possible signs and symptoms and to get any concerning or persistent symptoms checked out by a doctor.
Mr Holmes was just eight-years-old when he started having symptoms including headaches, problems with concentration, nausea, fatigue and problems with his vision.
Initially the GP put his symptoms down to a virus but then suggested visiting the optician. The back of his eyes were swollen so Mr Holmes was referred onto an eye clinic. A CT scan then found the brain tumour.
He had surgery to remove what was confirmed to be a low-grade pilocytic astrocytoma but, due to various complications, he was also diagnosed with hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid on the brain.
He was fitted with 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 which causes a slow bleed into the spinal fluid and leads to neural damage.
This is thought to have been as a result of his surgery. This has all meant that Mr Holmes is now completely deaf, and also experiences fatigue and reduced mobility.
He said: “When I think back to my childhood, which is when my symptoms first started, I realize just how unaware both my parents and GPs were of the symptoms of brain tumours.
“I was so young when I was diagnosed and I was back and forth to the GP for weeks. We kept being told that it was a virus but I was getting worse every day.
“I do often wonder if earlier investigations, such as a neurological intervention, could have lessened or even prevented some of the conditions that will have an impact on me for the rest of my life.
“I know that the symptoms of brain tumors are so often dismissed as something else and not fully investigated which needs to stop.
“I strongly believe that if a doctor is unsure of what the issue could be then they should either seek a second opinion or refer the person for tests. Even within the medical community as well as the general public, there’s much we need to 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 almost 5,000 people losing their lives to the disease annually.
In adults, symptoms include persistent or severe headaches which may be worse in the morning, changes to eye sight including blurred and double vision, tiredness, nausea, speech difficulties and seizures. In children, symptoms may also include balance, co-ordination or walking problems, loss of taste and smell, abnormal head position, regular sickness, especially in the morning and excessive thirst.
In addition, around 40 per cent of cases are still diagnosed in A&E and there was an increase in emergency presentations seen 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 brain tumor, and help ensure those who do have a brain tumor can be diagnosed and receive the care and support they need at the earliest opportunity.
To find out more about the possible signs and symptoms of a brain tumour, visit www.headsmart.org.uk.