Claire Bullimore Brain Tumour Story

I Survived a Brain Tumour and Breast Cancer

Brain Tumour and Breast Cancer Survivor Story of Dawn Hamill

Dawn Hamill has survived a brain tumour and breast cancer and is now a blogger sharing her experiences and her daily life.

Dawn is a courageous and inspirational lady. She was diagnosed with a Benign Parasaggital Meningioma in November 2008 and later on in 2014 was diagnosed with Grade 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Breast Cancer.

I initially met Dawn on my Facebook Page in 2012 and then had the chance to interview her on my ‘Brain Tumour Thursday Radio Show’ in 2014.  You can Listen to the segment of our interview here.

Be inspired by this true warrior

This week I asked Dawn to update us with how she is now 5 years down the line since her last interview.

How are you feeling now since your diagnosis?

My diagnosis was incredibly sudden.  One day I was at work in my National role of Nurse Consultant, the next day, following my first Tonic-Clonic seizure in the night, I was lying in a hospital bed awaiting Brain Surgery. I had no idea how much my life would change as I was wheeled to the theatre on that Wednesday morning in November 2008. Looking back now I can think I went into shock and, drugged up on new epilepsy tablets was really quite numb! It was as though the events were happening to someone else while I watched.

Now ten years later I often tell people “my brain tumour was the best thing that happened to me, it got me out of the rat race of work which gave me the gift of Time.  It also taught me how to live in the moment and really appreciate the small things in life”.  People look shocked when I say that!

Are you struggling with anything since your diagnosis?

I could spend a lot of time listing the things I struggle with but I prefer to focus on the positives. However, as you have asked my two main irritations are firstly my ongoing epilepsy which, despite many drug changes, still affects my days and weeks.  Secondly, my limited mobility as luckily following surgery I regained the use in my right leg and left arm but have never regained the full use of my left leg.

I also get frustrated that everything takes me so much longer to do nowadays as my brain doesn’t work at the speed it used to and I find it harder to retain information. I think that’s caused by a combination of the fatigue and the plethora of epilepsy medications. I take so many tablets I rattle!

What do you do now in your life in the week?

My life is so different compared with ten years ago. Writing has become my main focus. I write a blog about living a meaningful life after a brain tumour and breast cancer. But lately, my posts are infrequent as I am working on some research for a book on an organisation called the Adult School which is closing down but has a history going back 220 years. I also sing in a choir, play a bit of piano, try and do a bit of exercise when I have the energy and see as much of my friends and family as I can. To get out and about I now use a community (ring and ride) minibus service – something I thought was just for the elderly before! I also borrow mobility scooters when I need to.

We also keep an allotment where my husband and I grow our own vegetables. We have designed our plot to make it as accessible as possible for me as I tend to fall over a lot!

What motivates you?

Being lucky enough to have survived a brain tumour then breast cancer motivates me. I have always been someone who is motivated to make the most of life and that hasn’t changed since the brain tumour. I like to have something to look forward to but also to keep my mind busy every day after all as the saying goes “if you don’t use it you lose it! “

Brain Tumour and Breast Cancer Survivor Story of Dawn Hamill

Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?

My personal hero is my husband. He has been by my side through some incredibly tough times caused by my ill health. He understands my fatigue and epilepsy and is my radar for ensuring I don’t overdo things! He reads me better than I read myself. I am stubborn and find it hard to accept I can’t do everything I want. He has given up a lot too because of the way we now have to live our lives. We used to love dancing, long walks in the countryside and up mountains and travelling abroad to bird watch in remote areas. We can’t do any of these now and he never complains.

My other heroes are you, Claire Bullimore, Chris Lewis, Margaret Chandler and Danielle McGriskin amongst others. You have all seized a negative in your life and channelled it into helping so many others with brain tumours, and other cancers. I watch what you all do with such admiration.

I thought that with my extensive nursing background I would take a similar route in helping others. Once I had recovered from my surgeries, I dipped my toe in the water of charity work and volunteering, however, I discovered that I had worn my caring genes out! It took me a couple of years to understand and accept that was the case.

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What would you say is the most exciting thing you’ve ever done since your diagnosis?

I really had to think about this question. Probably getting married was my most joyous occasion. But exciting; now that’s a challenge. Mmmm, there are so many things but the one which immediately comes to mind is travelling from the airport in Venice to our hotel just off the Grand canal in a private water taxi. I loved the feel of the wind in my hair and watching the joy on my Moms face as we passed the beautiful old buildings as the holiday was a treat for her 80th birthday.

What is the toughest challenge survivors face?

I can’t speak for others but my own is the ongoing journey to ‘acceptance’. What I mean by that is ‘acceptance’ of the changes which occur after a brain tumour and in my case breast cancer, epilepsy and limited mobility is an ongoing process. I had never understood that before. I thought once I had reached acceptance that would be it. But it isn’t. I imagine it is the same with any ongoing health condition.

For example, I have accepted that my mobility has been considerably affected by the tumour and surgery. BUT day to day I still get frustrated if I come up against something new which I can no longer do. One of my life dreams was to visit Antartica, however, when I started to seriously explore the possibility of doing this, I came up against so many hurdles and brick walls I eventually gave up. It has taken me a year to accept that yet again my mobility and epilepsy are stopping me from achieving another dream.

Any advice for people or loved ones that get this daunting diagnosis?

Claire, you have the knack of asking tricky questions! I guess I have a few points I think are worth sharing:

  • Take it day by day, sometimes the best you can achieve is to get through the next hour
  • Be kind to yourself
  • If you want, information only use reputable sources such as NHS or large charities.
  • Approach a support group – it took me two years before I was signposted to any support and it was the best thing that happened in my recovery
  • Accept counselling if you are struggling, I don’t know how I would have coped without it!
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help, people want to do something so tell them what they can do such as prepare you a meal, take you out, give you a lift to hospital etc.
  • Sometimes change can bring good things, you just have to look out for it.
  • Live life in the moment, try not to spend too much time looking backwards or forwards to the future, learn to enjoy each moment.
  • Understand that acceptance of your situation is an ever-evolving entity.
  • Never, Ever Give Up.

Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know?

When I was in my 20s I made a list of the things I wanted to do before I was 50. I then worked through them and am so thankful I had the foresight to do that then, as I was 45 when my brain was discovered. My ticked off list included:

  • Do a freefall parachute jump
  • Learn to play the piano
  • Join a rambling group and walk every week
  • Climb mountains
  • See the Grand Canyon and walk to the bottom
  • Take up ballroom dancing
  • Have afternoon tea at the Ritz hotel in London
  • Study for a Degree….


Dawn is a true fighter. It can be hard to believe after one diagnosis like a brain tumour means there are no other battles ahead. It is unusual for this to happen but, Dawn shows that people can get through any battle with support and loved ones by your side. We must never take life for granted and we must step out of our comfort zone and get on the train that direct to the life we want.

Keep reading to find out more about Dawn and about her blog  Mind the Gap A-Z

Also, find Dawn on Twitter at dawn_hamill

Why not write your own list of ‘To Do Lists' and start ticking off the boxes like Dawn has been done?

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My Son Was Diagnosed With A Ependymoma

My Son Was Diagnosed With A Ependymoma

Linda Rickford Talks About When Her Son Was Diagnosed With A Ependymoma.

After going through a Knightmare of a time when her son was diagnosed with a brain tumour, she doesn't want any other mother to struggle the way she did. Linda recalls the whole experience and how now she has been supporting the Astro Brain Tumour Fund for many years.

Podcast Version Is Available Here

Hello, I am Linda. It all started when my son David, at the time, already had Cancer, Hodgkin's Lymphoma, which was diagnosed in 2004 and had surgery and Chemoradiotherapy for that and was in remission.

I am so incredibly proud of him

We were celebrating him virtually being discharged from the hospital when in the summer of 2008 he started being very very tired. Very fatigued. He would sit down and fall asleep looked dreadful and just really washed out all the time.

We got him to the GP because we were concerned about his previous cancer. They did blood tests but, nothing showed up. Then in July, he started vomiting, and gradually it started off as a little bit and then it progressively got worse and worse and worse. The GP prescribed him some medication for his stomach. That didn't do any good at all, and then one night he was vomiting so severely that we decided to take him to hospital. They didn’t see any problems and were going to discharge him.

Mother Talks About When Her Son Was Diagnosed With A Ependymoma

The hospital said he had nothing wrong and sent us home.

David actually very obligingly vomited coffee grounds blood in the doctor's surgery. So they admitted him. He was there about four or five days, they did various tests, and then eventually sent him home saying he had gastritis.

Within a few more days David was vomiting again. We took him back to the hospital, and they admitted him yet again and kept him in for 24 hours. They discharged him the following day at 3 o'clock. I picked him up from the hospital, and we hadn't even got to the car in the car park in the hospital car park before he was vomiting in the bushes again, and I just said to him.

I'm sorry my love, but I am just not taking you home

Linda Rickford Talks About When Her Son Was Diagnosed With A EpendymomaLinda Rickford has been supporting the Astro Brain Tumour Fund for many years. After going through a Knightmare of a time when her son was diagnosed with a brain tumour, doesn't want any other mother to struggle the way she did. Linda recalls the whole experience here

We went back in to speak to the doctor, they said we had to go through the A and E. So we went down to A and E and waited another five hours. Finally, they said they would admit him in that night and do some tests. I went home and eventually went to sleep. The phone rang at half-past eleven, and they said that he was being discharged the following morning as there were other people more urgent who needed the bed.  I don't want to denigrate the hospital anyway, but I was appalled when they said they were discharging him.

The next morning we went down to the GP and asked to be referred to a private doctor. It was all sorted very quickly, and we had an appointment for later that day.

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The doctor rang me up and said he has an abnormality in his brain

They immediately took David into care and gave him an MRI. The doctor rang me up and said he has an abnormality in his brain. Apparently, it was a brain tumour, by that time it was so bad that it was actually blocking the drainage of his spinal fluid and that was what was causing all the pressure in the brain and causing the vomiting. Thus within a few days, David was operated on.

It was such a shock,

To add on to the whole thing, David contracted meningitis while in the hospital, so he was actually in the hospital for five weeks.

Thankfully, David’s operation was a success, but he needed to have radiotherapy. He still has problems postoperative which he has to again deal with, but at the same time, he has done incredibly well.

He and I have our arguments now and then as a mother and son do, but actually, when I get the chance, I like to say, you know, I am so incredibly proud of him. What I describe as his stubborn streak, which gets on my nerves. Most of the time is what has actually pulled him through.

After David came home from the hospital and he got over the radiotherapy you go into that world of ‘I don't know where we are what we're doing now’. What's this all about?

Giving Back

Looking for support on the internet and I literally stumbled across Katie Sheen who is the founder of Astro Fund.  I was on the right website. They focus on supporting patients and families and raising funds for research into low-grade astrocytoma, oligodendroglioma, oligoastrocytoma and ependymoma brain tumours. I have found them so helpful.

It's a small charity. And every penny that is raised for it goes towards the actual research apart from minimal admin costs. None of the people who run it take up any payment. It's part of the Brain Tumour Research Charity.

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Find me on: Web | Twitter

Claire Bullimore brain tumour Story
Helpful gifts for a person affected by cancer or benign brain tumour