A UK father attributed his headaches to raising young children — turns out he had a brain tumor.
Gary Mackay, 38, believed his headaches and waning energy were brought on by the stress of working 40 hours a week, caring for his children and maintaining a social life.
He brushed off the aches and pains until November 2022, when he collapsed onto the bathroom floor in the middle of the night and woke up disoriented.
Mackay was rushed to the hospital, where he had a CT scan for a suspected stroke. There, he was diagnosed with a Grade 2 astrocytoma — a rare brain tumor — on his 37th birthday.
“Everything started making sense,” he told SWNS.
“My mysterious collapse was actually a grand-mal seizure,” he continued. “The pain in my head, sometimes so severe it felt as if someone was drilling into my skull, and my lack of energy were all caused by my brain tumor.”
Grade 2 astrocytoma infiltrates healthy brain tissue — the tumor grows relatively slowly and usually does not have well-defined borders.
While surgeries are effective, the tumor is not completely removed because its tentacle-like projections grow into the surrounding tissue and may continue to spread.
During the wait for his surgery, Mackay was sent home — where he suffered a major seizure near his son, Sebastian, who was 4 at the time. He’s also a dad to an 8-year-old girl.
“I felt a strange aura — what I now know is the feeling you get before you have a seizure — come over me,” he recounted.
“I had started preparing dinner and put some water on to boil. My next memory was waking up as my wife, Lisa, returned home with Holly, and Sebastian saying, ‘Daddy’s been asleep for an hour.’”
When he awoke, he was able to talk but wasn’t making much sense.
His wife, Lisa, asked if he needed medical attention.
“I think so,” Mackay replied.
Over the next few months, Mackay was given medications to manage his seizures until his surgery. He doesn’t remember much from that time.
“From my birthday in November 2022, right through Christmas last year, everything is hazy,” he said.
In February, he finally underwent a craniotomy to remove the 5-centimeter tumor from his brain.
Although his operation was a success, Mackay worries that the cancer could return one day.
“This disease has torn my family’s world apart,” he lamented. “We live with uncertainty, and that has been horrible to deal with.”
He stresses about things he could miss in the future, like walking his daughter down the aisle and becoming a grandparent — but he is looking forward to spending time with family while he can.
“I want to raise awareness and money for research into brain tumors to combat this disease and stop other families going through the torment it has brought my family,” Mackay said.
He will begin training in January for a National Three Peaks Challenge, a May 2024 summit of the three highest peaks in England, Scotland and Wales, to raise money for Brain Tumour Research.
He has raised about $2,500 as of Monday.
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