Heartbreak as Plymouth man diagnosed with deadly brain tumour

A former Plymouth soldier discovered he had a deadly brain tumour after he chucked all of his wife’s socks in the bin and is now desperately trying to raise funds for treatment.

In March 2015, Nicola came home to find her then boyfriend, James Flint had thrown away her socks, but assumed he had been sleep walking, the following day, he had no recollection of a three hour drive he had taken.

A month later, Nicola found James on the floor at home having a seizure and took him to the emergency department, he was then diagnosed with a 5.7cm tumour in his right frontal lobe, which he and his wife Nicola named “Kenneth”, in April 2015.

The then 29-year-old underwent a successful surgery at Derriford Hospital in July that year and Kenneth was evicted.

James, a politics lecturer at the University of Plymouth, underwent radiotherapy and concurrent chemotherapy daily, for six weeks and even had a further course of chemotherapy during his wedding, in Malta in 2016.

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But in December 2019, the couple’s lives were turned upside again when a routine MRI showed a recurrence of cancer and the tumour, named “Kenneth Jr”, was removed in March 2020.

The pair are now desperately seeking alternative therapy to help James beat the brain tumour.

“This time around hasn’t all been plain sailing though,” Nicola wrote.

James with wife Nicola (Image: eyJpdiI6Ikg4YWhNR3pJVjYrdE1HbW4r)

“Post-surgery James lost use of his left side, thankfully significantly recovered, and the pathology results show that the cancer has advanced to a Grade 4 Glioblastoma (GBM), the most aggressive type of brain cancer.

“The news has been devastating to us. Glioblastoma has a shocking prognosis, with the average survival from first diagnosis being just 12-15 months.

“As James received radiotherapy back in 2015, it is no longer a viable treatment option for him without the risk of significant harm. Alarmingly, the April post-op MRI has revealed regrowth already.”

James, who served with The Rifles, as part of 3 Commando Brigade on Operation Herrick 9 in Afghanistan, is now fundraising for immunotherapy treatment options to keep him alive.

James served with The Rifles, as part of 3 Commando Brigade on Operation Herrick 9 (Image: eyJpdiI6Ink4K04xYUNNMkhhbTh1V051)

So far, £12,303 has been raised out of a £55,000 target. You can donate to the cause, here.

On the GoFundMe page, Nicola wrote: “We cannot believe what we are facing, and the recent Covid lockdown has made things even harder to process.

“My James is witty, intelligent, kind-hearted and fiercely loyal.

“He is a veteran of Afghanistan, serving with The Rifles, as part of 3 Commando Brigade (on Operation Herrick 9), and an accomplished associate lecturer in International Relations and Politics at the University of Plymouth.”

James with his wife Nicola (Image: eyJpdiI6IkkrMnE1cEIwaml3VkwzSE1o)

She added: “We are at the start of our married lives and careers, but instead we are seeking every possible treatment option we can.

“When James was first diagnosed he told me that the two important things on his bucket-list were to make me happy and to complete his PhD.

“He has achieved both of those things, but at just 34 years old he has so much more to give and to live for.”

Through the NHS, James is currently receiving chemotherapy every month, but Glioblastoma is notoriously resistant to such treatments.

James Flint in hospital (Image: eyJpdiI6Imh1MVRBUEZwK05iRlJuQWsy)

“He is also undertaking various private treatment protocols, including supplements and repurposed drugs which are thought to disrupt the metabolic makeup of the cancer cells, which we access through the Care Oncology Clinic in London,” Nicola added.

“We are now seeking immunotherapy treatment options to keep James alive and well for as long as we can. As this treatment isn’t currently approved by NICE in the UK, we will have to fund the treatment ourselves, and travel to Germany regularly.

“We hope to have tumour sequencing analysis carried out at the CeGaT clinic in Tuebingen, with a personalised treatment created which will hopefully give James a better chance in any rematch with Kenneth III.

“A second line of treatment, provided by IOZK (again in Germany) is DCVax (Dendritic Cell Vaccine). Early indications show these treatments to hold fantastic promise for extending survival rates.”

All donations will be used to go toward the cost of treatment to help prolong James’ life and if there is any money left over, it will be donated to Brain Tumour Research.

You can donate to the cause, here.

What is a brain tumour?

A brain tumour is a growth of cells in the brain that multiplies in an abnormal, uncontrollable way.

Grades and types of brain tumour

Brain tumours are graded according to how fast they grow and how likely they are to grow back after treatment.

Grade 1 and 2 tumours are low grade, and grade 3 and 4 tumours are high grade.

There are 2 main types of brain tumours:

  • non-cancerous (benign) brain tumours – these are low grade (grade 1 or 2), which means they grow slowly and are less likely to return after treatment
  • cancerous (malignant) brain tumours – these are high grade (grade 3 or 4) and either start in the brain (primary tumours) or spread into the brain from elsewhere (secondary tumours); they’re more likely to grow back after treatment

The Cancer Research UK website also has more information about specific types of brain tumours.

Symptoms of a brain tumour

The symptoms of a brain tumour vary depending on the exact part of the brain affected.

Common symptoms include:

  • headaches, which can be dull and constant, or throbbing
  • seizures (fits)
  • persistently feeling sick (nausea), being sick (vomiting) and drowsiness
  • mental or behavioural changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality
  • progressive weakness or paralysis on 1 side of the body
  • vision or speech problems

Sometimes you may not have any symptoms to begin with, or they may develop very slowly over time.

When to see a GP

See a GP if you have these types of symptoms, particularly if you have a headache that feels different from the type of headache you usually get, or if headaches are getting worse.

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

If your GP cannot identify a more likely cause of your symptoms, they may refer you to a doctor who specialises in the brain and nervous system (neurologist) for further assessment and tests, such as a brain scan.

Who’s affected

Brain tumours can affect people of any age, including children, although they tend to be more common in older adults.

More than 11,000 people are diagnosed with a primary brain tumour in the UK each year, of which about half are cancerous. Many others are diagnosed with a secondary brain tumour.

Causes and risks

The cause of most brain tumours is unknown, but there are several risk factors which may increase your chances of developing a brain tumour.

Risk factors include:

  • age – the risk of getting a brain tumour increases with age (most brain tumours happen in older adults aged 85 to 89), although some types of brain tumour are more common in children
  • radiation – exposure to radiation accounts for a very small number of brain tumours; some types of brain tumours are more common in people who have had radiotherapy, CT scans or X-rays of the head
  • family history and genetic conditions – some genetic conditions are known to increase the risk of getting a brain tumour, including tuberous sclerosis, neurofibromatosis type 1, neurofibromatosis type 2 and Turner syndrome

The Cancer Research UK website has more information about the risks and causes of brain tumours.

Treating brain tumours

If you have a brain tumour, your treatment will depend on:

  • the type of tumour
  • where it is in your brain
  • how big it is and how far it’s spread
  • how abnormal the cells are
  • your overall health and fitness

Treatments for brain tumours include:

After being diagnosed with a brain tumour, steroids may be prescribed to help reduce swelling around the tumour.

Other medicines can be used to help with other symptoms of brain tumours, such as anti-epileptic medicines for seizures and painkillers for headaches.

Surgery is often used to remove brain tumours. The aim is to remove as much abnormal tissue as safely as possible.

It’s not always possible to remove all of a tumour, so further treatment with radiotherapy or chemotherapy may be needed to treat any abnormal cells left behind.

Treatment for non-cancerous tumours is often successful and a full recovery is possible.

Sometimes there’s a small chance the tumour could return, so you may need regular follow-up appointments to monitor this.

The Cancer Research UK website has more information about treatment for brain tumours.

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