Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

Someone who inspires me: my sister and her battle with a brain tumour

If you were to ask a group of people who is the most inspirational person they could think of, names like Nelson Mandela, Anne Frank or Steve Jobs would be rightfully mentioned. But for me, the word inspirational can only be used when describing one person and that is my younger sister Siân.

It was while on a family holiday in Devon in April 2018 when my sister, who was 15 at the time, started falling poorly with what we thought was a stomach bug. After being taken to a local A&E department, doctors suggested Siân should have a CT Scan, just as a precaution. It was from this that Siân was diagnosed with a life-threatening brain tumour. There isn’t anything that can prepare you for this sort of news and for everyone around her, life came to a complete halt.

Doctors had informed us that Siân’s tumour was the size of a grapefruit and had been growing for around two years and was now a serious threat to Siân’s life. For anyone receiving this news, you would expect them to fall to pieces, but not Siân. She remained calm and reassured us all that she would be alright and prepared for her journey, alone, by ambulance to Bristol Children’s Hospital, while my parents followed behind. Three days after her diagnosis Siân underwent a seven-hour operation and her tumour was thankfully removed. By the end of the week, just three days after her surgery, Siân made a miraculous recovery and was discharged from hospital and returned to our home in the Midlands. This in itself is unbelievable, but my sister then proceeded to sit four of her GCSE exams just three weeks after her surgery and passed them all.

My sister’s resilience and positivity are what has carried her and her family through some of the darkest days

However, it has not been so simple over the last 12 months, as Siân has faced more serious complications since her initial surgery. What many people do not realise is that people who have suffered from brain tumours often face later problems as well. Due to an increase in cranial pressure in her head, Siân was rushed back into hospital in the summer of 2018, where doctors at Queens Medical Centre in Nottingham had to operate and fit an internal lumber shunt: this is a plastic tube that drains away the excess fluid around her brain, which was a huge threat to Siân’s eyesight. Since then Siân has endured multiple operations after her shunt malfunctioned, and had to have it removed, replaced and then altered to control the pressure levels in her head. I am writing this after Siân has recently been discharged from second home of Ward E40 at QMC, where she underwent yet another lengthy operation to remove and fit a shunt which is now attached directly from her head.

Siân’s complications are sometimes hard to understand, and for someone who have never experienced anything like this, it is difficult to comprehend how these worries can affect a person and their family. But what I want people to take from this is that my sister’s resilience and positivity are what has carried her and her family through some of the darkest days. Even during some of her lowest moments, Siân has continued to show a smile and reassure everyone that she is okay. Her presence instantly lights up a room and her sociable, optimistic attitude earned her a special place in the hearts of many doctors and nurses.

For anyone who is at a low point in their life, they should look to my sister Siân, and any young person like her, for inspiration

And yet, Siân still continues to put others before herself. Last year she decided to grow her hair and donate it to the Little Princess Trust, which has been used to make wigs for children who have lost their hair. She has also raised £2500 after starting up a GoFundMe page, which she then donated back to Ward E40, buying countless toys and resources for the staff, patients and families. Now at the age of 17, it is no exaggeration that Siân continues to live her life to the fullest. Most recently, we have received scan results that everything seems to be as it should be, and her surgeons are extremely pleased with her progress.

It is hard to sum up in so very few words how exceptional my sister truly is. Anyone who has the pleasure of meeting her will understand how special this girl is. Her positivity and warmth are infectious and for anyone who is at a low point in their life, they should look to my sister Siân, and any young person like her, for inspiration.

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