Brain tumour sufferer: '˜I just live every day and keep going'
When Richard Preston was diagnosed with a brain tumour, he was given just two years to live.
But the 47-year-old has defied the odds – more than three years later he is still fighting the disease and making the most of the time he has left.
Now, as National Brain Tumour Awareness Month continues, he is speaking out about his battle and how he stays so positive every day.
Richard, from Harkness Drive in Waterlooville, was diagnosed back in 2013 when he began to get headaches by his left eye.
He says: ‘I went to see the doctor and was told to go to the opticians. They said I needed glasses, so I got a pair of glasses.
‘But two weeks later I was still getting pain near my left eye.’
Richard was sent to Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham, where he had a CT scan. He was then rushed to Southampton General Hospital in an ambulance.
They did an MRI scan and it was then that they discovered Richard had a tumour.
He was given the option of either having a biopsy to find out how serious the tumour was, or simply having the entire tumour removed.
Richard went for the latter option and underwent an operation.
He then faced a two-week wait to find out how serious it was.
Richard had a glioblastoma multiforme, also known as GBM. It was graded a type four tumour – the worst you can get. He was given a life expectancy of just two years.
He says he was shocked when he found out.
‘I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink tea or coffee. I’m always the designated driver. I thought if I did all that I would live forever. And then I get told this.
‘I was stunned that I had anything like this. I have always been so careful about not doing things that I thought were bad for me.’
It was at that point that Richard decided he wanted to get married. He had been with his partner, Wendy, for 25 years and they had never married.
‘We decided we weren’t going to have children so we didn’t worry about getting married,’ he says.
‘But when I got the diagnosis I thought I should ask her to marry me.
‘She has been fantastic. She was being asked to marry someone who might only be around for a couple of years. But she said yes very quickly.’
The couple met at Brunel University, London where Wendy was studying mechanical engineering and Richard was studying applied computer systems.
The pair tied the knot on March 1, 2014 at the De Vere New Place Hotel, near Southampton.
Richard has worked in computer support for many years. When he was diagnosed with cancer, he struggled to get used to not being at work.
‘While I was taking the chemotherapy pills and I wasn’t on radiotherapy I tried to do a bit of work. After a couple of weeks I had to give in,’ he says.
‘I can’t concentrate anywhere near as much as I used to be able to.
‘The chemotherapy pills also made it very difficult to sleep. But you are much more susceptible to diseases as you have a much lower immune system than normal, so you are much more lethargic.
‘Some days I wake up and think I can’t face the day and I go back to bed.’
But Richard is still here, more than three years after being told he had just two years to live.
Back in 2014, Richard and Wendy first spoke to The News after he had spent a year undergoing intense chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Today he refuses to wallow in self-pity and he hasn’t let his condition stop him enjoying his life.
He took the view that he wanted to appreciate the time he has left, even if that meant spending thousands of pounds on travel insurance to go on foreign holidays with Wendy.
They spent their honeymoon on a cruise around the Mediterranean.
They then took another cruise around the Baltic and have been on a trip through Germany, stopping at the most picturesque castles.
Later this year, they are heading to China.
Richard says: ‘We don’t sit on beaches. We always go for places that have interesting, architectural things to do.’
Now he just takes one day at a time. He has a scan once a year to see if any tumours have returned.
He has been told that due to the severity of his diagnosis, another tumour will return and it could be that one of the same size will grow back within a year.
Richard has been warned to return straight back to the hospital should he start experiencing headaches again.
But he still retains a positive outlook on life.
‘A lot of people worry,’ he says.
‘When you have something that bad, a lot of people worry about it. But can you fix it by worrying? No, of course not. So I don’t worry about it.
‘I’m very lucky. The fact that I have something so bad but I got it early means I have got a much better chance of fighting it.
‘I now live one year at a time because that’s when I have a brain scan. I’m positive. I just live every day that I can and keep going.’
WEAR A HAT DAY
The charity Brain Tumour Research is organising its annual Wear A Hat Day event on Friday, March 31.
People are encouraged to wear a hat for the day in support of the charity and to raise awareness of brain tumours during Brain Tumour Awareness Month.
To find out more, please visit braintumourresearch.org/wearahatday.