My name is Kirsty, I am 23 years old, from Scotland and I work in childcare.
When I was 11, I was diagnosed with an inoperable tectal plate brain tumour and hydrocephalus. Because the tumour is of a type that does not respond to chemo or radiotherapy, and is too deep set to for invasive surgery, there is no treatment I can get for it. The hydrocephalus is kept in check by a programmable “shunt” that is implanted in my brain to drain the cervical spinal fluid (CSF) to the stomach cavity.
I have had many lengthy spells in hospital over the years, first at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh, and now at the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh.
Both the tumour and the shunt require constant monitoring at the Western. The initial hydrocephalus left me with some residual brain damage and damage to the optic nerves, which also requires constant checks at the eye pavilion. I also have constant headaches, mobility problems, short-term memory loss, poor co-ordination and I tire easily.
I had a bad spell 2008 when I was 17 and had to be taken to the Western General Hospital, which is an adult hospital, and I was kept in for two months getting intense treatment. I had bad reactions to a number of the drugs and was very poorly. My walking and speech were affected a lot and my hair was a mess! I also had lengthy spells in the Western in 2009 and 2010 and have spent a little of each year since there.
The staff on my ward all seem to know when I am in again and come to see me from wherever they are working at the time. I also attend the youth group run by Maggies Cancer Care Centre, which is based at the Western, and have great times and support from them.
I am not the kind of person to sit back and let my illness take over. I am a very outgoing person and I think that the Youth Cancer Trust (YCT) is a tremendous charity who give amazing support to young people from all over the country. The holidays they provide for cancer patients (and a friend or sibling!) are free, and the house is open all year round.
Sometimes cancer can make you feel insecure and down
The staff at Tracy Ann House (holiday home) in Bournemouth have all the time in the world for all their guests and make it a great experience. Sometimes having cancer can make you feel insecure and down, but it is great knowing you are not alone and I feel YCT helps everyone realise you still have a life around cancer.
I have been to Tracy Ann House a number of times over the years and have made some great friends and have many happy memories. My time there makes it easy to forget about having cancer and allows me to be positive and get on with life.