Frank's story – I had to give up my career

Tuesday 04 February 2020

Maggie's West London

Losing my career and having to adjust to a very different kind of life hasn’t been easy, but Maggie's have helped me to continue to feel like myself.

My diagnosis changed everything

Ten years ago I was diagnosed with what’s called an oligodendroglioma – it took me a long time to learn that! It’s a type of brain tumour.

My diagnosis changed everything. I was at the top of my game, I was Head of Research for a large bank in London, travelling around the world and loving my life. 

At first I had symptoms of epilepsy, and after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing was sent for an MRI. I remember the moment I knew something was really wrong – I was with my wife and kids at Disneyland Paris and I got a call from my neurologist saying “I need to see you on Monday morning”  – that’s never going to be good news. So I turned up at the hospital and we got straight into the process of biopsy and then chemo.

I actually thought the treatment would be a lot worse than it was, so I carried on working. Eventually, though, I had a massive relapse.

My epilepsy went from episodic to basically one constant seizure. I was admitted to hospital and then released into palliative care at Meadow House Hospice. I wasn’t expected to survive, but I did.

Learning to manage a new disability 

I came out of the hospice in a wheelchair but with the help of a wonderful physio, I was out of it in two years, walking with a stick.

I no longer need the stick and walk relatively normally, but only have one pace – medium slow! 

When I come to Maggie’s West London, I always walk from Hammersmith station and back. On the way I pick a bus and try to beat it, which to be fair isn’t that hard as the traffic is usually quite slow-moving.

Maggie's has really supported me in adjusting to my new normal and I've picked up tips that have really helped me along the way.

For example, I found out if you’re registered disabled, you get a Freedom Pass, so you get free travel on all London Transport.

Also if you want to go to a gig, you get a free ticket for a carer. My wife loves the Boomtown Rats, so we went to see them. They’d actually blocked off the bit next to the stage, so we were right there in the mosh pit watching the gig.

For me, Maggie’s is a community

Now that I am back on my feet but not yet working I have a lot of time on my hands. But I make sure I still get up at the normal time, shower, shave, read the paper, say goodbye to the kids as they head out to school, and then go out – even if it’s just popping to the shops.

Two mornings a week I have a physio/occupational therapy session and I have recently started to do some consulting work, commuting into an office in Central London. Maggie's has become part of my routine and I try to visit every Friday.

For me, Maggie’s is a community. It’s people to talk to, to share war stories with, and tips on how to get through stuff. It’s a very supportive and interesting place.

Anyone can come and get advice about anything from treatment to benefits or you can just sit here quietly, read the paper and have a cup of tea.

Maggie’s has helped me in lots of different ways – some I would never have expected. I saw a counsellor, which I found very helpful in adjusting to my new life.

I also attend the monthly brain tumour support group at Maggie’s. Talking to others who are going through something similar has been a real help.

Losing my career and having to adjust to a very different kind of life hasn’t been easy, but I’m determined that having cancer isn’t going to define me. 

Right now I’m looking for work. Maggie’s has helped me to continue to feel like myself, even when life changes.

Here with you

If you, your family or friends need support during this time, please call us on 0300 123 180, email or book a time to visit us.

If you're already visiting the hospital, just come in.

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