Wednesday 26 July 2017

10 things I've learned about life after I was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 25

James Murphy who suffered from a Brain Tumor pictured at work in Twitter.
James Murphy who suffered from a Brain Tumor pictured at work in Twitter.

James Murphy

Ballincolig man James Murphy (26) was shocked when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2016, after a week of suffering from a bad headache. James made the decision to undergo high-risk surgery to remove the tumour and chemotherapy and radiation to target its remains. Here, he writes about what he has taken from the life-changing experience.

Why me? What now? How long do I have? Where do I go from here... questions I, and I'm sure other cancer patients, ask themselves when diagnosed.

An image of a scan showing James' brain tumour Photo Credit: A Sense of Tumour
An image of a scan showing James' brain tumour Photo Credit: A Sense of Tumour

Initially there was anger, shock, confusion and denial. I was pissed off, this was crazy.

"A brain tumour, I’m 25 years old". In the space of a few weeks I had gone from working full time and planning drinking sessions with friends, to full time hospital stays and planning surgery and chemotherapy.

It was all surreal but one day the penny drops. Then comes a decision, a point in time where you need to decide how you'll go forward. Do you let this disease consume you, take over your life and effectively change who you are? Or do you face the problem head on, meet the obstacles put in front of you and try to come out on the other side?

For me the choice was easy... I chose life. I was not going to be the victim. I don't want people to feel sorry for me. I don't want your sympathy or pity. This would not define me. I will not be the brain tumour kid. I can beat this disease and if not I'll die trying. This would not change the person who I was.

In the past few months I have realised I was wrong. I've accepted the sympathy and found it gave me strength to see how many people were concerned. I've enjoyed sharing my story and have ultimately changed who I was before this all began. I'm now stronger, wiser and more rounded.

I've learned so much over the past few months and decided to share the life lessons it has taught me.

James said he's been relatively unscathed apart from a large scar on his scalp. Photo Credit: A Sense of Tumour
James said he's been relatively unscathed apart from a large scar on his scalp. Photo Credit: A Sense of Tumour

1. Having a great support structure around you is vital to fighting any battle. I’m lucky to have a great family, friends and co-workers who are a constantly helping me and reminding me that I have an army behind me in this battle. If you’re in trouble reach out to someone, don't take the burden on yourself. You'd be surprised how good people are and how they rally behind you in a time of need.

2. Listen to your body. If something doesn’t seem right, get it checked out. Nothing to lose.

3. Live for the moment. Too often we analyse events in the past and let them dictate our future. Too often we are planning for our future, imagining what we could have, what we could become. If I've learned anything it is that life is fragile and can be taken at any stage. Enjoy the now.

4. Being sick is a mindframe... positivity is the best medicine.

5. Don't take anything for granted. Relationships, family, health, friends. One day it could be gone, so respect what you have.

6. There's enough bad in the world without fighting over trivial issues. You see so many people falling out over minor situations. Build a bridge, get over it and move past it. Don’t be upset over something you could have done, could have changed. Just do it✅

James Murphy who suffered from a Brain Tumor pictured at work in Twitter.
James Murphy who suffered from a Brain Tumor pictured at work in Twitter.

7. Normal is good. Life doesn't need to be 1000 mph living in the fast lane with wild adventures. The funny thing about a cancer diagnosis is that it makes you think about things you would like to do, or make a bucket list. It also strangely gives you new perspective on the things in your current life you enjoy. For me it was work, football, going out with friends, binging on tv boxsets. Sure it sounds a bit boring but it's what I love to do so now I appreciate it even more.

8. While normal is good, the bucket list is also important. Plan that trip, go on that adventure, follow your dreams, find a career you love, ask that person out. We get one shot at life so make the most of it. Take risks.

9. There are a lot of people who are worse off than you right now.

10. There are people who appear to be better off than you...don't be jealous or insecure. Stop judging your life against others and make your own destiny. Live your own life.

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James Murphy was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year and after undergoing treatment is now back at work at his job in procurement for Twitter Dublin. His colleagues have decided to nominate Brain Tumour Ireland as their charity of the year for 2017.

Twitter Dublin is organising a Wear a Hat Day to raise funds for Brain Tumour Ireland on Friday May 12.  The idea is for employees to wear hats to work to raise awareness of brain tumours and donate to Brain Tumour Ireland. Other people and companies are encourage to get involved and wear a hat for brain tumours.

For more information please see www.braintumourireland.com

To donate €4 to the cause on Wear a Hat Day text BTI to 50300* or check out the special fundraising page: https://give.everydayhero.com/ie/wear-a-hat-day-2017

* 100% of your donation goes to Brain Tumour Ireland across most network operators. Some operators apply VAT which means a minimum of €3.25 will go to Brain Tumour Ireland. Service Provider LIKECHARITY. Helpline: 0766805278

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