Dad fears for family's future as he battles rare brain tumour
- Credit: Gareth Stevens
It’s hard to imagine the devastation which is felt when someone is told they have a brain tumour.
But for father-of-three Gareth Stevens, who is battling a rare condition, his worst fear is not being able to provide for his family.
The ex-military man, from Attleborough, is preparing for a gruelling six weeks of radiotherapy in the biggest fight of his life.
But during what is already an extremely difficult time for his family, they have the added worry about how their bills will be paid while he is forced to stop work.
The 41-year-old, a HGV driver who transports tanks for the Ministry of Defence and remains a sponsored reservist in the Army, first detected something was wrong around 16 months ago.
As the coronavirus pandemic hit and face-to-face doctor appointments were reduced, he struggled to get a diagnosis for the headaches and severe pain he was experiencing.
Despite various appointments with his GP practice in Attleborough and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Mr Stevens was initially misdiagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia.
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He said: “I started suffering with some pain, headaches, and jaw pain which, on a couple of occasions, they diagnosed as low mood and depression.
“The amount of pain that I was in and having to deal with that on a daily basis really made me quite depressed. I found it difficult to do most things.
“Throughout the 15 months I had my medication swapped numerous times. I almost felt like a guinea pig - they weren’t really sure what was wrong with me.
“Also, during that time my cousin was suffering with a brain tumour and going through treatment.
"I mentioned this to doctors and said is there any chance this could be linked, but they dismissed that immediately and diagnosed me with Trigeminal Neuralgia.”
The NHS Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group said they are unable to comment on individual cases but wished Mr Stevens the best with his treatment and thanked him for highlighting the issue.
A spokesman for the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital also added: “We’d like to wish Mr Stevens all the best with his ongoing treatment and we would be happy to speak to him directly to answer any questions or concerns he has.”
Eventually, Mr Stevens - who served in the Army from 1997 to 2010 - was booked in for a CT scan on November 7 and that was when doctors discovered a large mass around his right temporal lobe.
“They explained to me that they were extremely surprised that I was walking, talking and that I had driven myself to the hospital," he said. "I’m a heavy goods driver and work for the military transporting tanks.
“I had been doing that throughout the entire time I had been suffering from the pain. That’s how dangerous things were.”
Following the scan, Mr Stevens was correctly diagnosed with Chordoid Meningioma – which has a 100pc recurrence rate - and on Wednesday November 17 he underwent an operation at Addenbrooke's hospital in Cambridge to have the tumour removed.
After spending Christmas at home with his financee, Jennie Stevens, 39, and their three sons, Joseph, 13, Christopher, 10 and Louis, four, Mr Stevens is now waiting to start six weeks of intense radiotherapy.
He added: “My licence has been taken off me, so as a family we are scraping our way through on one wage. My fiancée also has to take time off work to get me back and forward to my appointments.
“As well as my job driving, I was working part time as a sponsored reservist back in the military. But even that has been taken away from me.
"I’m not sure whether I will be able to go back to it in the future. That would be a massive loss.”
To help support the family a gofundme page has now been set up with hopes of raising enough money to cover their rent while Mr Stevens goes through treatment.
To donate you can visit the donation page here, https://www.gofundme.com/f/gareth-brain-tumour-help-a-family.