Wife and mother of four, Andrea Seal, 42 was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive form of cancer on her brain in 2011, at the age of 37.
Andrea, who is from Middleton in Rochdale, said: “I had been suffering from severe headaches since the beginning of 2010 and in June that year my GP diagnosed me with tension headaches and prescribed me painkillers.
“They helped with the pain a little, however one morning as I was getting ready for work, I was struck with an almighty pain in my head; I felt dizzy and could barely stand. I managed to speak to my GP who advised that I should go to A&E.”
Following various tests and investigative procedures at A&E, Andrea was discharged only to be rushed back in to hospital the following night. She was an inpatient for two weeks; the doctors had discovered she’d had a bleed on the brain.
Andrea continues: “After being discharged, I continued with follow up appointments and had a number of scans. The following year, my doctor wrote to me and advised that from looking at my scans he thought I had a meningioma on my brain. My mum said it sounded like a brain tumour.”
By October 2011, Andrea and her family had come to terms with the fact that she had a brain tumour and she needed surgery to have it removed.
Andrea added: “The very first time I heard the words proton beam therapy (PBT) was when my consultant came to see me after I’d had surgery. He told me he had removed about 95% of the tumour on my brain and the rest he thought, could be treated with a special type of radiotherapy called PBT.
“He advised I'd have to travel abroad for it as it wasn’t yet available in the UK. He confirmed that further surgery here could potentially cause too much damage to the surrounding tissue as the remaining tumour cells were in a position that was hard to reach.”
Andrea was referred to The Christie in February 2012 and underwent further blood tests and examinations before being referred for PBT in America.
Children stayed at home
Andrea and her fiancé (now husband) travelled to Oklahoma in May 2012 and stayed there for 11 weeks whilst she underwent her PBT treatment. Andrea was keen that her children didn’t miss any time from school so they stayed in the UK and were looked after by her mother and her mother-in-law.
Andrea said: “PBT has given me and my family my life back and I am ecstatic I was fortunate enough to receive the care and treatment that I did. Having this available in the UK will enable others to receive treatment without having to leave their babies behind. And I know myself how hard this is - not just for the patient but for the whole family.”
Andrea returned to the UK in August and her first scan since treatment was in November 2012.
She said: “My first scan since having PBT showed great results and my tumour had shrunk dramatically, more than was expected. All my following scans have been stable too, I feel incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to have PBT.”