A mother with terminal brain cancer is writing her two-year-old son birthday cards so he does not forget her.
Tyla Livingstone, 22, of Fife, is expected to live no more than five years, after being diagnosed with a tumour dubbed ‘The Terminator’ in February 2018.
The tumour – initially thought to be benign – was discovered to be fatal after Ms Livingstone woke one morning with paralysis on her right side.
Gruelling surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy destroyed some of the cancer but the mass continued to grow.
Ms Livingstone has also collected locks of her hair to give to her son, Preston, and feels ‘guilty’ she is leaving him without a mother.
Tyla Livingstone (pictured), 22, of Fife, is expected to live no more than five years after being diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in February 2018
Ms Livingstone is writing her two-year-old son, Preston, birthday cards so he doesn’t forget her. She is pictured in hospital, possibly during treatment to try and shrink the tumour
Ms Livingstone’s tumour is often dubbed ‘The Terminator’ due to its low survival rate. She is pictured in the December before Preston was born
Ms Livingstone, pictured recently, is trying to stay positive knowing her days are limited
Ms Livingstone told The Sun: ‘It’s heartbreaking.
‘I feel so guilty over something I cannot control.
‘But I will fight to see as much as I can.
‘My main aim is to see him go to school and for him to remember who I am and my voice.
‘But I’ll always be with him in his heart.’
WHAT IS A GLIOBLASTOMA?
Glioblastomas are the most common cancerous brain tumours in adults.
They are fast growing and likely to spread.
Glioblastomas’ cause is unknown but may be related to a sufferer’s genes if mutations result in cells growing uncontrollably, forming a tumour.
Treatment is usually surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, followed by a combination of radio- and chemotherapy (chemoradiation).
It can be difficult to remove all of the growth as glioblastomas have tendrils that extend to other regions of the brain. These are targeted via chemoradiation.
Glioblastomas are often resistant to treatment as they are usually made up of different types of cells. Therefore, medication will kill off some cells and not others.
The average survival time is between 12 and 18 months.
Only 20 per cent of patients live longer than a year and just three per cent survive over three years.
Source: The Brain Tumour Charity
Ms Livingstone has a grade-four glioblastoma – an aggressive but relatively common cancerous primary brain tumour that affects adults.
It all began when she unexpectedly became pregnant at 20 years old with her partner, Mark, 29.
At 31 weeks, she suddenly started having abdominal pains and took baths to relieve them.
While in the tub, her hand seized up and a strange sensation travelled up her arm, causing her to jump out and scream for her grandmother.
She then blacked out and awoke to her grandmother calling an ambulance.
‘She was telling them I had suffered a seizure and was jerking about,’ Ms Livingstone said.
‘I was so stressed about my baby, I didn’t even think of myself.
‘On the way [to hospital] I felt my baby, who I knew was a boy, kick.
‘I was so relieved.’
When a test for pre-eclampsia came back negative, doctors sent Ms Livingstone for an MRI scan the next day.
The results showed Ms Livingstone had a 2cm mass growing on the left frontal lobe of her brain.
She had experienced none of the tell-tale symptoms, such as dizziness or headaches, up to that day.
Although she was gobsmacked, Ms Livingstone claims her doctor reassured her it was likely to be benign.
And if it was cancer, it was likely to be a mild form that she could recover from.
Preston was born at the Royal Victoria Hospital a week early on January 12 weighing 5lbs 14oz.
A month into motherhood, Ms Livingstone woke the morning after going out for a drink with paralysis on the right side.
Ms Livingstone woke up with paralysis the morning after drinking alcohol, but wasn’t too concerned. A mass had recently been found on her brain, but she was told it was benign
Ms Livingstone first experienced symptoms of her brain tumour while she was 31 weeks pregnant with her Preston two years ago
Blaming alcohol, she ignored her symptoms for two days.
But she was eventually persuaded to see her GP, who she claims told her off for not coming in straight away.
The doctor chased the results of an MRI that had been carried out after Ms Livingstone gave birth, but had not yet been investigated.
The scans showed the tumour had grown massively and was pressing on Ms Livingstone’s nerves, causing the paralysis.
Ms Livingstone was taken to hospital immediately where she was put on steroids to try and reduce the swelling that surrounded the tumour.
She was allowed home but could barely walk, while her family cared for Preston.
On February 26, she had emergency brain surgery that lasted nearly six hours.
Ms Livingstone was awake for some of the procedure to preserve her senses, in an operation called an awake craniotomy.
Two weeks later, it was revealed Ms Livingstone had a grade-four glioblastoma, which begins in the brain and is terminal.
Ms Livingstone said she feels ‘guilty’ she is leaving her son without a mother
On February 26, Ms Livingstone had emergency brain surgery that lasted nearly six hours, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy – but nothing has shrunk the tumour
Ms Livingstone said she is glad her son does not understand that she is ill
Around 23,900 brain and other nervous system cancers are diagnosed in US adults a year, according to The National Cancer Institute.
GBMs account for 52 per cent of all primary brain tumors.
In the UK, around 4,500 primary brain tumours are diagnosed every year.
Only 20 per cent of GMB patients live longer than a year and just three per cent survive over three years.
Ms Livingstone said: ‘So few people survive longer than five years, it’s nicknamed “The Terminator”.
‘Learning the news was horrific.
‘At that moment I died inside.’
Chemotherapy, brain surgery and radiotherapy destroyed some of the cancerous cells, however, the tumour will continue to grow.
‘I know my time is running out now,’ Ms Livingstone said.
‘It’s like I’ve won the lottery, but a terrible lottery with no money involved.’
Ms Livingstone is trying to remain positive for her ‘mischievous and funny’ son, knowing every minute is precious.
‘I used to feel awful at school for people who had lost their mum and dad, and it’s so upsetting it’s going to be my son, but in a way I’m glad it’s happening now because at least he doesn’t understand,’ Ms Livingstone said.
‘I need him to know his mummy fought desperately hard to be with him, that she loved him so, so much and didn’t choose to leave him.’
WHAT IS A GLIOBLASTOMA AND JUST HOW DEADLY IS IT? THE AGGRESSIVE BRAIN TUMOR SUFFERED BY JOHN MCCAIN
Senator John McCain was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in July 2017
Glioblastoma is considered the most aggressive tumor that can form in the brain. Senator John McCain was diagnosed with one in July 2017.
Patients have a 10 percent chance of surviving five years after their diagnosis, according to figures. The average lifespan is between 14 and 16 months.
Three adults per every 100,000 will be struck down with a glioblastoma, says The American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS).
It is most commonly found in men aged 50 to 60, and there is no link between developing glioblastoma and having a previous history with other cancers.
WHAT IS THE TUMOR MADE OF?
The tumor is made up of a mass of cells growing quickly in the brain, and in most cases patients have no family history of the disease.
It won’t spread to other organs, however, once it is diagnosed, it is nearly impossible to target, surgeons claim.
Unlike other types of brain cancer which are more specifically located, glioblastoma can occur in any part of the brain.
WHAT TREATMENT IS AVAILABLE?
Because the tumor likely already spread deep into the brain by the time it is diagnosed, the cancerous tissue is incredibly difficult to remove.
Surgeon will only ever remove the tumor, or part of the tumor, if it won’t do any damage to the surrounding brain tissue.
Dr Babcar Cisse, a neurosurgeon at the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center, told Daily Mail Online in July 2017: ‘By the time a glioblastoma is diagnosed, microfibers can spread to the rest of the brain which an MRI would not spot.
‘So even if the main tumor is removed and the patient receives radiation and chemotherapy, it will come back.’
GRADING A GLIOBLASTOMA
Brain tumors are graded from between one to four, depending on how fast they grow and how aggressive they are.
Malignant tumors are either given a high-grade three or four, while benign ones are given a lower grade one or two.
Glioblastoma is often referred to as a grade four astrocytoma – another form of brain tumor, says the AANS.
Patients typically complain of symptoms such as confused vision, trouble with memory, dizziness and headaches.
The symptoms are somewhat nonspecific, and vary from person to person, and may not persist.
The disease is therefore impossible to diagnose based on symptoms alone.