An officer is urging people to know the signs and symptoms of a brain tumour after a shock diagnosis changed his life last year.
PC Dave Stubbs, aged 43, was diagnosed with a brain tumour in July 2021.
He is now raising money for three brain tumour charities who supported him and his family as part of Brain Tumour Awareness Month this March.
Following his diagnosis, PC Stubbs was told he could have collapsed anytime with the tumour, which medics believed had been developing for more than 10 years.
In a twist of fate, it was when Dave tested positive for coronavirus the previous month, that the tumour was picked up.
He explains: “I’m one of the few people that can say covid-19 actually saved my life.
“When I tested positive in June 2021, I had no symptoms at first.
“But in the space of two days I felt as though my head would explode – the pressure was so horrendous it felt like my skull was in a vice.
“I had to sleep with my forehead resting on the edge of the sofa, it was so bad.”
Dave’s head pain continued for weeks before he contacted his GP.
By this point, the officer was also struggling to lift his right arm over his head and clench a fist.
Dave said: “My GP immediately sent me for an urgent CT scan.
“I still had no idea that it was anything other than possible complications from covid.
“The thought of a brain tumour never even crossed my mind.”
However, Dave’s scan came back to confirm he had a satsuma-sized tumour. His only option was to undergo emergency surgery.
Now Dave hopes that by sharing his story he’ll encourage others to spot the signs of brain tumours.
He said: “So many things now make sense and I realise I’d been displaying symptoms over the last nine years.
“I had headaches throughout the week, always felt tired, and struggled to sleep.
“My personality changed too – I became fixated on things and was unable to stop.
“I also gained weight and had problems with my vision.
“I was initially diagnosed with type two diabetes and my blood pressure was really high.
“All this was initially put down to stress and a poor work-life balance.
“But being told I had a brain tumour finally made sense of all the things I’d been experiencing; though I felt my whole life was torn apart in that split second.
“I’ve never felt so scared and helpless.”
Dave underwent surgery to remove the tumour in September 2021.
However, due to its location around a vein, it could only be partially removed.
Dave said: “Having a brain tumour is life-changing and the ongoing issues you experience after diagnosis are not always obvious to others.”
The officer, who works in the force’s northern criminal investigation department (CID), said he no longer thinks things through in the same way.
He said: “I struggle to process information and follow instructions as well as to read.
“I often misread words and it takes me longer to understand what I’m reading.
“I also feel pressure building in my head if I read more than three pages.”
As a result of his tumour, Dave has had to step back from his role working on complex investigations, has relinquished his driving licence and has to take multiple tablets daily.
But, since his surgery, the officer has seen some incredible positive health changes.
His blood pressure has dropped, he no longer has headaches and is starting to lose weight, while his family and colleagues in the force have continued to support him.
He said: “This has brought me and my family closer together, my marriage is stronger than ever and my son has also been a superstar throughout all of this.”
Indeed, Dave and Rachel’s son, Elijah, aged 9, has already been fundraising at his school by selling sweets and badges. He has also asked for donations to the fundraising appeal instead of presents for this birthday which is due at the end of the month.
Dave added: “Everyone; all my family, friends and Staffordshire Police – my work family – have been very supportive from day one and I’m proud to be continuing to work for the force.
“A special thank you must also go to the neurology team at Royal Stoke University Hospital for saving my life.”
The charities Dave and his family are raising money for include: Brain Tumour Support, Brain Tumour Research and The Brain Tumour Charity, who each helped them at different points during Dave’s tumour diagnosis and ongoing recovery.
They hope to raise £3,000 – to be split equally between each of the charities – with Rachel even planning to shave her head if the target is reached. Not only this, but she plans to donate her hair to a charity that makes wigs for children with cancer if they manage to meet the £3,000 milestone.
Rachel, an officer at Leek Police Station, said: “Having support from these charities has been invaluable.
“We want to raise awareness of brain tumours and also provide much-needed funds to support other families who find themselves in a similar situation.”
To donate to PC Stubbs’ fundraising appeal, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/my-brain-tumour-journey.
To find out more about the signs and symptoms of brain tumours, visit: Brain tumours – NHS (www.nhs.uk)