A mum-of-one says she began to experience numbness in her fingers and could never have imagined that this was being caused by an incurable tumour growing in her brain
Image: Triangle News)
After she began experiencing numbness in her fingers back in October, Claire Shipp was initially informed that she had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a condition whereby the nerves to a person’s hand become trapped.
However, by Christmastime, the 43-year-old mum-of-one became more concerned after the numbness spread to her arm and face. She then suffered two seizures in late December and early January.
After being admitted to the hospital, abnormalities were found on her CT scan, with doctors realising that the situation was serious and it was at this point that Claire was given some devastating news.
She was told that she had a fast-growing, incurable brain tumour above her right ear and that her only chance for a longer life would be to raise money and travel overseas for treatment.
Claire, who was given just two years to live, now needs to raise £100,000 to undergo private immunotherapy treatment that isn’t available to her through the NHS, but is available in Germany or the USA.
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Claire, from Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, said: “Back in October last year I started getting some funny sensations in my hand; one of my fingers went numb. It felt a bit like getting a weird electric shock and I went to the doctor and they said they thought it sounded like Carpal Tunnel.
“My life was completely normal apart from my hand doing weird things. It was the middle finger on my left hand.
“The numbness did start to spread but again that can happen with Carpal Tunnel, then I got tingling on the left-hand side of my face, but it was only once every so often. You’d never think of a brain tumour“.
Her first seizure took place on Boxing Day, with the second happening on January 3, leading her to call 999. Because of the Covid regulations that were in place at the time, she had to go to Luton and Dunstable University Hospital without her husband Julian, and it was here where she was given her CT scan.
“I was sat there thinking ‘I’m sure it’s nothing, but an hour or so later they came and got me and took me into a room. Alarm bells started to ring and she said ‘I’m really sorry, but we’ve found something on your brain, but as it’s only a CT scan we can’t tell what it is.
“I had to sit in a corridor for the next four hours as they didn’t have a bed for me because I needed an MRI. I sat there crying – it was horrible, one of the worst nights of my life. Then told me they’d found a tumour and it might be malignant,” she recalled.
Claire was then referred to London’s National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, where specialists confirmed the diagnosis of a grade four astrocytoma, a cancerous brain growth that may also affect a person’s spine.
She was told that brain surgery should be carried out as soon as possible and that she would be awake throughout the procedure.
Before going into surgery on January 18, Claire wrote a long letter to her nine-year-old son, just in case she didn’t survive the six-hour operation.
All throughout the lengthy procedure, doctors tested Claire’s reactions to ensure that, by removing the tumour, they wouldn’t- inadvertently damage the healthy parts of her brain.
Claire says: “I managed to stay calm somehow, I just thought ‘I have to do this’. I wrote a letter to my son in case something happened as there was a chance I could have a big bleed and that would be it. My brain was mapped and there were ten people in the room. They were all assessing as they went along. The worst part was when they cut my skull.
“I could hear the vibration and hear the sound. It was knowing what they were doing. When they were doing it, in my mind I was screaming. I was visualising my family and my son”.
One week after the tumour was analysed, doctors told Claire that it was incurable. Even though they’d managed to move most of it, they knew that it would soon grow back.
Claire, who has since changed her diet and lifestyle, has put all her hopes on immunotherapy, a treatment that currently isn’t offered by the NHS. Her sister has organised a fundraising drive, with the aim of raising £100,000 to send her to Germany or the US for treatment.
On top of this, Claire is also fundraising via Facebook and GoFundMe, and has so far raised £10,000.
She added: “The hardest part about all this is I have a funny, bright, caring nine-year-old son who is a mummy’s boy and light of my life and it breaks my heart that I won’t be there to see him grow up, to be there for him as he navigates life’s ups and downs. Because of him I am determined to fight this as hard as I can. I don’t have the luxury of time.
“The fundraising is ambitious, but it’s giving me something positive to cling on to and focus my attention on. I want to be one of those people who somehow beats the odds and takes charge of my life – I’m doing anything I can to help myself”.
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