Student left unable to walk or talk after brain tumour surgery now feels ‘better than ever’ thanks to devoted partner
A bride-to-be who struggled to speak or stand unaided following brain tumour surgery walked proudly down the aisle to say her wedding vows after her devoted fiancé helped nurse her back to health.
Bethany Whiting was diagnosed with two brain tumours at the age of 21 after numerous fruitless GP visits over a four-year period to seek help for crippling headaches that often left her bedbound.
It was a newly-qualified doctor at her local practice who finally referred her for the brain scan which led to her diagnosis in April 2017.
Surgeons managed to remove one of the tumours, although taking out the second was judged too risky because of its position in her brain.
The eight-hour operation at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridgeshire in May 2017 left Bethany unable to walk or to talk without slurring.
The student from Chatteris feared she might never be able to walk down the aisle to marry fiancé Adam. But with Adam’s unstinting support, Bethany – now 23 - made a remarkable recovery.
She is sharing her story through The Brain Tumour Charity to raise awareness of brain tumours, their symptoms and their impact.
Bethany said: “After my surgery, I had no NHS physiotherapy or speech therapy - it was Adam who helped me learn to walk and talk again.
“I was given a zimmer frame by the hospital and Adam’s mum had a pair of crutches that I borrowed. Gradually I weaned myself off the frame onto the crutches, then onto one crutch using Adam for support until I was doing it by myself. Then I would walk towards him step by step across the room, with him encouraging me.”
Adam, 22, a youth and student pastor at St Mary’s Church in Luton, also helped Bethany to overcome speech problems caused by her surgery.
Bethany said: “I was very slurred and all of my words would get jumbled up. Sometimes I’d get very confused. Adam would help me string sentences together and encourage me to talk slowly until he could understand me.”
The couple, who met in 2015 when both were studying at the University of Bedfordshire, had got engaged just two months before Bethany’s diagnosis.
They married at Emmanuel Church in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire in July last year, where Bethany walked down the aisle on the arm of her dad, Philip.
“It was amazing,” Bethany said. “It was a year and two months after my diagnosis. My hair had grown back again after I’d had to have some of it shaved off for my surgery. I had family there who hadn’t seen me since before my operation because they were in other countries.
“I was so worried about being able to walk down the aisle without falling down and about being able to say my vows without slurring. But it all went perfectly.”
Bethany is now finishing her course in psychology, counselling and therapies at the University of Bedfordshire after a short break in her second year following her diagnosis.
She wants to encourage others to persist if their instincts tell them something is seriously wrong and is supporting The Brain Tumour Charity’s HeadSmart campaign to highlight the signs and symptoms of brain tumours in children and teenagers.
“I saw so many different doctors and they all told me I just had headaches. I started to believe that. Many people would have let it go. But I also knew there was something else wrong. It’s about carrying on and pushing.”
Bethany, who has raised money for The Brain Tumour Charity since her wedding through a sponsored head-shave, also wants to inspire hope in others affected by a brain tumour diagnosis.
“After my surgery I couldn’t walk or talk, I was severely fatigued and completely dependent on my family. I am so thankful to them for everything they did for me.
“Now there is very little I struggle with. I still get tired and sometimes find writing difficult, but other than that I feel better than I ever have.”
Bethany will continue to be monitored for any sign of growth in the tumour that could not be safely removed. Both of the tumours were low-grade (non-cancerous).
Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Bethany’s is an inspirational story of love and determination in the face of a shocking diagnosis.
“We’re so grateful to her for sharing her experience of a brain tumour and for raising funds for The Brain Tumour Charity in order to help others. We wish Bethany and Adam very many happy years together.”