Dialog Box


Kim thanks her surgeon for a 'second chance'

By Kim Downes

Kim is the organiser of Walk4BrainCancer Life Is Precious in Springthorpe. Here she tells her story of gratitude to her surgeon who gave her a 'second chance' at life. 

Kim Downes (c) at Walk4BrainCancer Springthorpe 2017, which Kim organises.

Headaches were becoming a way of life. Throughout my 20s and 30s I would suffer from migraines every now and then, but once I reached the age of 40 they were becoming more frequent. So much so the doctors thought it was hormonal.

At the age of 44 I had a hysterectomy because of some issues but also because it was thought that this procedure would solve my headaches. Needless to say, it didn’t help.

I turned 45 in January 2012. I kid you not when I tell you I was in my GP’s office every Monday morning at 8.30am to say, “The headaches are still not going away and are getting worse”. 

I was living in beautiful Melbourne with my husband and two children, worked, volunteered and life had to go on, headache or no headache. I was sick of talking about them and I am sure everyone was sick of listening to me say, “I had a headache”. 

My husband thought it was stress and that I should “slow down” and make changes in my life. We were in Fiji with our family and another family having a holiday and mid-way through the holiday I suffered a headache so bad that I could barely walk. My husband couldn’t understand how I could be stressed on holiday. I swore I wasn’t stressed and started to wonder if food was triggering the headaches. I didn’t know and the doctors didn’t seem to know either. One thing was for sure, I started to feel like people were thinking I was making it all up.

In early July 2012, my husband actually insisted on coming with me to see my GP to see what else we could be doing. “Try another drug”, I was told. “Give it time.”

A week later I saw my chiropractor, who is also a naturopath, and she asked if I’d ever had a brain scan.  “No,” was the answer.

So, the days went on with nothing changing until mid-July 2012 I was driving home from a client in Ballarat and all of a sudden, I could barely see. I had suffered a really bad headache the night before so I thought I just must be tired. But I ended up finishing the drive with one eye closed the whole time in order to see clearly, otherwise everything was triple vision. Things stayed the same and four days later I saw my GP as per usual on Monday morning when he then suggested a scan. I was told not to drive until I had the scan. My husband was overseas so a friend drove me the next day and all I thought was “another test which will tell us nothing”.

That night at 9pm the doorbell rang. I immediately knew it was my GP and I was right. He asked to see the scans and said he had good news and bad news. The good news was we now knew what was causing the headaches. The bad news was I had a grapefruit-size brain tumour and I was booked in to see a neurosurgeon the next day.

My first thought was, “Thank God everyone will now believe me! I wasn’t making it up.” I slept like a baby that night just knowing there was an answer.

Kim taking part in her Walk4BrainCancer event in Springthorpe 

The next day I saw the neurosurgeon, who said I would be admitted into the hospital on Thursday and operated on Friday. But I said, “Can’t this wait until December? I have too much to do!” He laughed and said I’d be lucky not to have a major stroke within days if I didn’t follow his orders.

I was chairing a major fundraising ball on Saturday. This was a heck of an excuse to get out of it! LOL. But everything was in place and the committee promptly took over.

I didn’t have time to research the tumour as I was told it was a meningioma on the frontal right lobe which grows on the lining of the brain. Mine had probably been growing for 7 to 10 years. The size was so big it had pushed the right side of my brain down and my surgeon didn’t know how I was functioning.

My husband quickly returned from overseas, I made plans to organise the kids, the Ball without me, and my work load. Before I knew it, I was in the hospital.

My neurosurgeon, Ian Wang from St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne, is nothing short of a genius! Surgery was meant to be for two hours…it went for four hours because Ian not only removed the tumour but removed every last trace of it, even the parts he said would die off that had wrapped themselves around my major arteries.

I am one of the blessed. I required no treatment because Ian was able to remove it all and test results revealed. The tumour was just turned Grade 2. I was to be watched every three months for a year and then every six months for a few years. I am now 5 years tumour free and owe my life to Ian.

I found bright lights, noise and anything that required concentration a challenge for a few years. I still have problems with a lot of noise and just find it draining. The whole experience was a shock to my family and friends, but with their support and help I made a speedy recovery.

Otherwise life is completely normal now and I working and volunteering again. But Ian continues to be a big part of my healthcare, is very compassionate, honest and I trust him with my life. Thank you for a second chance.

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