Life after a brain tumour diagnosis

To mark Brain Tumour Awareness Week, CHRIS DUNNE talks to Cork woman Julie Power about her diagnosis and positive outlook on life
Life after a brain tumour diagnosis

Julie Power was diagnosed with her first brain tumour aged just 12

JULIE Power was only 12 years of age when she was diagnosed with her first brain tumour.

“This was extremely hard on my parents and family,” she says.

“I continued to go to school and live life to the best. I sat my Leaving Cert in 1993 and passed.

“Life was not always rosy in the garden, but having a network of loving, supportive people around me certainly helped,” says Julie.

“I had wonderful neurosurgeons and this helped greatly. In 1986, I was under the care of Mr Feely. I was in the children’s ward in CUH, then I had another brain tumour in 1998. I was in GA in the hospital under the care of Mr Buckley. I had another reoccurrence and I was under the care of Mr Marks.”

Julie ploughed on with life despite a number of setbacks.

“I studied a course in FAS in Cork and from there I continued my study in University College Cork, where I studied for eight years as due to my brain tumours I studied a subject a year. This was done with the help of the disability support services in UCC,” says Julie.

“In 2010, I got my degree in French and Philosophy. I now work in UCC for the disability support services.”

Julie has a positive outlook.

“I believe if you have a positive attitude and you believe in your own ability, you can achieve anything.”

She had a number of surgeries when her brain tumour re-occurred.

“I had a re-occurrence in 1988,” says Julie.

“These tumours were removed by operations and I had a shunt inserted which went from my head to my stomach. The shunt enabled my cerebral fluid to flow from my head. I have had further operations for revision of my shunt in 1991. A bone was taken out of the back of my neck or the base of my head to help with the cyst in my head.

“I had an operation in Switzerland while on holiday as my shunt had blocked and the neurosurgeon over there inserted another shunt.

“In 1998 there was another recurrence of the brain tumour,” says Julie. “I have had an abundance of operations and even though a large part of my life has been spent in hospital, the support I received from family and friends kept me in good, positive form.”

Julie is a high achiever.

“I succeeded in getting my degree in Philosophy and French in 2010,” she says.

“Today, I have my own house and I work in University College Cork, where I teach French to students with disabilities. I am a Personal and Educational assistant to a young woman in UCC. I supervise exams, and I also volunteer as a peer mentor, (helping students) in UCC.”

Julie’s brain tumours had side effects.

“Every illness has side effects,” she says.

“I have poor balance and double vision with a nystagmus. However, having a very positive attitude helps to overcome obstacles.

“I feel I am very fortunate to have succeeded as well as I have,” says Julie.

“The Brain Tumour Support Group in Cork has helped me in many ways.”

Julie has a busy life.

“I work part time as an Educational assistant with the disability support group in UCC. I work for nine hours a week. I travel by bus from Cobh to Cork city and from there I get a bus to UCC. I begin work at noon and finish at 3pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. I enjoy my job.

“The brain tumour support group is wonderful as you get to meet other people with similar health issues, and knowing that you are not alone, that the people in the support group are always there to help, makes life easier. There are also guest speakers at our monthly meetings, oncologists, neurosurgeon speakers, people who can offer their knowledge and support.

“Brain tumour Ireland has a wellness day and we do activities like mindfulness, therapeutic dance; there is also a nutritionist who comes to speak.”

Julie enjoys her hobbies.

“I enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles, listening to music. I enjoy walking. I enjoy going for a meal with family and friends. I also like to travel and enjoy scenery. I don’t drive due to my vision, therefore I need to use public transport.”

Julie looks on the bright side.

“I’m very lucky as I have super cousins, friends and family.”

She has achieved a lot in her life.

“I firmly believe that if you believe in your own abilities you can achieve a lot,” says Julie.

“Knowing what you are able to do and not putting yourself at risk. I believe your health is your wealth so look after this, be kind and helpful and you will feel better as a result. If you look after yourself first, you can then help those around you.

“I listen to ‘Healing the body, the Mozart Effect’ by Don Campbell. It is a compilation of Mozart music which I find extremely relaxing.

“If we are happy and positive, we feel better and life is easier. Slow down and appreciate nature.”

Brain Tumour Awareness Week takes place from October 29 to November 5 with a special line-up of events, including the annual Wear A Hat Day national fundraiser on November 4.

Ireland’s only dedicated brain tumour charity, Brain Tumour Ireland (BTI) is calling on the public to wear their favourite hat on #WearAHatDay on Friday, November 4 and donate €4 to support the charity’s vital work for brain tumour patients and their families.

More than 400 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour in Ireland each year, with many contacting Brain Tumour Ireland for support following a diagnosis.

For more see www.braintumourireland.com.

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