Inspirational Derbyshire mum tells of brave battle with brain tumour

Deborah and her children Freddy and Oona. Pictures: marieansonphotography
Deborah and her children Freddy and Oona. Pictures: marieansonphotography

"I was making plans and goals for the future - and the next minute I found out I had a brain tumour.

"Everything was thrown into disarray - but you've got to deal with what you've been given, haven't you?"

Deborah at her surprise party.

Deborah at her surprise party.

The words of inspirational Deborah Peacock who has been through more than anyone should have to endure in the last 18 months - but she has carried on smiling.

The mum-of-two was diagnosed with a brain tumour on February 28 last year after suffering from seizures and episodes of confusion.

"I just knew there was something seriously wrong with my brain," the 32-year-old told the Derbyshire Times.

"I had a feeling it was a tumour.

Deborah with her aunty Sheila Dunn, her mum's cousin Julie Bagshaw, her mum Dawn Wells and her friend Laura Bennett.

Deborah with her aunty Sheila Dunn, her mum's cousin Julie Bagshaw, her mum Dawn Wells and her friend Laura Bennett.

"After being diagnosed, I got back home and I had to break the news to my family and friends.

"All I could do was tell them, 'it's what I thought - I've got a brain tumour'.

"I was worried about other people and we were all thinking, 'what next?'"

Less than a month after she was told the devastating news, Deborah, of Barlborough Road, Clowne, was admitted to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield to undergo brain surgery.

Deborah with two representatives from Neurocare.

Deborah with two representatives from Neurocare.

"I never asked how big the tumour was until the day of surgery," she said.

With a smile on her face - a smile which was evident throughout this interview proving Deborah certainly isn’t one to dwell on negativity - she continued: "The surgeon came in at about 7.30am, I had my dressing gown on and they'd drawn a big arrow on my neck and I said to him, 'do you know what, I've never asked you this - but how big is this tumour?'

"He tittered a little bit and said, 'quite large – like the size of a large orange, the sort you would pay £4 for'.

"And I said, '£4?! Where do brain surgeons buy their oranges?!'

"In a strange way there was humour there."

Most of the tumour - around 90 to 95 per cent - was removed from Deborah's brain in an operation which lasted several hours.

She said: "The surgeon always told me he probably wouldn't be able to get all of the tumour - but he did everything he could.

"I was definitely in the best hands."

After six nights in hospital, Deborah returned home on Mother's Day last year to her husband Michael, 34, and their doting children Oona, seven, and Freddy, four.

"We laid and watched telly - it was perfect," she recalled.

Deborah said: "The tumour was sent to a lab for testing and the surgeon said it was non-malignant but he described it as 'wild' - which means it's quite uncontrollable.

"He said one day it might come back and there might be a different prognosis.

"The surgeon recommended radiotherapy and chemotherapy which I mulled over.

"By that point I felt like I was getting back on my feet after the surgery - why would I put myself through all the side effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy?

"But in the end you have to do what the professionals recommend."

Brave Deborah underwent six weeks of radiotherapy and 36 weeks of chemotherapy - and the finance manager worked during most of that time.

Deborah - who took her last tablets three months ago - said: "At least I know that I did everything I could, I did everything that was recommended to me – and I can't look back and say 'what if I'd had the radiotherapy and chemotherapy?'"

Deborah said she is 'definitely picking up now' and added: "I'm not where I was.

"I've got to think I'm doing really well.

"Every time I see a consultant they say I'm doing brilliantly.

"I’ve moved along and I've got through everything."

Deborah hopes to be able to drive again and return to work on a full-time basis soon - two things which are incredibly important to her.

Seven weeks after undergoing surgery and six weeks after taking her last tablets, the fitness fanatic took part in two 5k runs raising almost £1,300 for Neurocare – the charity which aids the neurosciences department at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

Two months ago, Deborah's mum Dawn Wells and friend Laura Bennett organised a surprise party for her at Clowne Community Centre.

The event raised £1,000 for Neurocare and Weston Park Cancer Charity.

Deborah described it as a 'really special and wonderful night'.

"The fundraiser was supported by so many local businesses and people, too many to mention individually, and I'm astounded by the support mum and Laura received in organising the event," she said.

Deborah added: "I'd like to say a massive thank you to every single person who‘s supported me along the way - my family, my friends, my colleagues, NHS staff, everyone.

"Everybody has been amazing."

So how does Deborah feel about the future?

She said: "One day, maybe the tumour will return, maybe it will have grown and maybe it will be something different.

"If that happens then we'll talk treatment again - and we'll smash it again hopefully.

"But I can't live every day thinking about when that time might come - and I won't.

"I won't be ruled by what's left inside my head.

"I'll continue to do what I do and try and get back to normal - whatever that is!

"It's been a whirlwind journey and it’s been scary at times - but I'm here."

'You've got to be positive'

According to the NHS, brain tumour symptoms vary depending on the exact part of the brain affected.

Common symptoms include:

► severe, persistent headaches

► seizures

► persistent nausea, vomiting and drowsiness

► mental or behavioural changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality

► progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body

► vision or speech problems

An NHS spokesperson said: "Sometimes, you may not have any symptoms to begin with or they may only develop very slowly over time.

"See your GP if you have the above symptoms, particularly if you have a severe and persistent headache.

"You may not have a brain tumour but these types of symptoms should be checked out."

Deborah, who is keen to raise awareness about brain tumours, offered advice to people who have been diagnosed with the cancer.

She said: "You've got to be positive, you've got to trust the professionals and you've got to talk about it - talking is therapy.

"Take each day as it comes - and try and have a laugh."

For more information about brain tumours, visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/brain-tumours and www.thebraintumourcharity.org