‘The world carries on, you’ve just got to carry on with it’

Jade Salero
Jade Salero

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As far as dilemmas go, Jade Salero knows this is probably the biggest one she’ll ever have to face.

If she goes ahead with an operation to remove a cyst from her brain, there’s a chance it could leave her blind.

But left to its own devices, she knows the cyst will only continue to cause a build-up of pressure that already leaves her feeling terrible.

For the past 14 years, Jade has been living with a brain tumour.

The 27-year-old has already had radiotherapy and surgery to deal with a cyst that was also diagnosed when she was a teenager.

Now the appearance of a second cyst has thrown up the potential to change everything.

Yet Jade is determined to enjoy life while she can.

‘You just have to deal with it,’ she says. ‘Being ill is like a big grieving process. When we were told there was a second cyst we were all devastated.

‘But when you look out of the window the world carries on, you’ve just got to carry on with it.’

Jade, from Havant, was 13 when the condition cranio pharyngioma was diagnosed. The benign tumours can cause a build-up of pressure and vision problems.

Jade has suffered from bad headaches for as long as she can remember and was often sick.

Despite visits to her GP, her problems were dismissed as stress-related or glue ear.

‘I felt like my head was going to explode,’ remembers Jade.

‘Then my sister came home after a two-week holiday and she noticed a big change in me. She said “Mum there’s something wrong with Jade, call an ambulance”.

‘I was taken to St Mary’s Hospital and stayed there for seven days but they didn’t know what was wrong.

‘My mum was taking me to the toilet one day and I couldn’t hold my head up off my shoulders.

‘A surgeon walked past us in the corridor, stopped and said “Can I look at your daughter?”

‘He knelt down and tapped me on the shoulder and I fell over.

‘He found a nurse and said “There’s a young girl on your ward who needs a brain scan”.’

The scan revealed a small tumour and a much bigger cyst on her brain. Jade was transferred to Southampton General Hospital for further investigation and doctors discovered that the cyst was full of fluid.

A shunt was fitted to allow the excess fluid to be drained in future.

But the cyst would fill up every six weeks and then every 10 days, so a more permanent course of action was needed.

Jade had radiotherapy, followed by an operation to attach one end of the cyst to the other to stop it filling up.

And she continued to live like that until last year, when she went back for a scan that revealed the second cyst.

More radiotherapy wasn’t an option and Jade was told an operation could cause damage to her eyesight and alter her personality.

‘I was happy, I was going to train to be a teacher. They always said “If you get a second cyst it’s a sign of things to come”,’ she says.

‘They told me the last 10 years were the best I’m ever going to get. How can you carry on living when you think it will never get any better?

‘It’s very difficult, you have to re-evaluate everything.

‘No-one has told me I’m dying but the best outcome will be I lose my eyesight and the worst will be that everything else changes. The person who I am will change.’

An earlier operation had already caused her to lose her vision for about 24 hours.

But the possibility of being blind doesn’t scare her.

‘People still live when they are blind. It’s the other things that worry me.

‘Your temper can be really affected and your whole personality. I can’t imagine not being in control of myself.’

Adjusting to what the future might have in store has been hard for Jade but she now wants to concentrate on making the most of the present.

‘I’m going to wait and hold off while ever I have more good days than bad days.

‘When the bad days outweigh the good, I’ll have it done.’

As well as making plans to travel and enjoy life to the full, Jade’s also discovered a new passion.

Her health problems have made work difficult in the past – but now she’s found a new career.

Her own weight-loss experience prompted her to become a Slimming World leader and she’s just taken over her own group.

For Jade, Slimming World has been the key to achieving something she’d always been told would be impossible.

When she was first diagnosed with a brain tumour she was put on steroids and told she’d never be able to lose weight.

‘I went from about six stone when I got diagnosed to about nine-and-a-half stone by the following January,’ she explains.

‘It just seemed out of my control, no matter what I did.

‘When I was put on steroids I was told “You will put on weight, no matter what you do”.

‘I thought to myself “If I’m going to get fat eating healthy food, I may as well get fat eating all the food I like to eat”.

‘I wasn’t at school because I’d had a couple of operations. It’s very easy to put on weight when you’re ill because you just want to eat what you want.

‘If I’d eaten the right things I wouldn’t have put on weight.

‘But after you’ve had your skull opened up you’re not allowed to exercise for about a year because of the risk of epilepsy.’

She adds: ‘I used to do lots of dance and drama and not being able to do that was a big factor for me putting on weight.’

Jade tried various diets over the years. But it wasn’t until she joined her local Slimming World group in August 2011 that she had any success.

At the time she weighed 11st 3lbs – too much for her petite 4ft 11in frame.

Since joining the group she’s slimmed down to 9st 10lbs by cutting out her two pints of milk-a -day habit, reducing her portion size and eating a healthy, balanced diet.

Now she wants to help others who have been told they’ll struggle with their weight because of health problems.

‘I don’t see what I’m doing as a diet, I could do it forever,’ she adds.

‘It’s just healthy eating.’