Emotional homecoming for Elaine

This was the moment when Elaine Office from Blyth arrived home to an unexpected welcome from her colleagues and neighbours recently.

7Single mum to two boys, Lewis age 13 and Ryan age 11, Elaine has been working on the frontline of the ambulance service as a paramedic in Ashington for 15 years, when her life took an unexpected turn for the worse earlier this year.  On 3 January, Ryan was diagnosed with a brain tumour.   

Elaine explains “Ryan’s symptoms had been very vague.  For a couple of months leading up to the diagnosis, he sometimes woke in the morning saying he felt nauseous but was never sick.  It wasn’t until Ryan complained of double vision and I observed one of his eyes turn in on itself for a split second, that I realised that this was potentially far more serious.  I made an urgent appointment at the GP and opticians for that same day.   

“The optician referred us as an emergency case to the RVI.  He told me that Ryan’s optic discs were swollen.  I was aware that a potential cause of this could be raised intracranial pressure, which would have also accounted for him feeling nauseous only in the mornings.  At that point I just knew.” 

Doctors were really surprised at how few symptoms Ryan had for the large size of the tumour. He underwent a craniotomy to remove the tumour on 7 January 2020.   

Following an agonising wait for the histology results, he was diagnosed with an Anaplastic Pleomorphic Xanthastrocytoma, which is a very rare type of cancerous brain tumour.  Although not much is known about this type of tumour, the family was told that they typically don’t respond to chemotherapy but should respond to radiotherapy.   

There is sadly a very high risk of recurrence with this type of tumour.  

The specialists involved in Ryan’s care recommended Proton Beam Therapy, which is only available on the NHS at three sites across the world.   With funding support from the NHS Elaine, Ryan and his dad flew to Jacksvonville in Florida for the treatment.  

Elaine continues “I have had great support from my colleagues at NEAS as well as friends and family.  I was astounded but extremely grateful when one of my colleagues set up a Just Giving fundraising page for us.  I knew it would be expensive to live out in Florida for nine weeks whilst still having all of the usual bills to pay back home.  This funding enabled us to fly Ryan’s brother, Lewis, out to join us.  

“We count our blessings every day that we were afforded the opportunity of flying out to receive this treatment prior to Covid-19 hitting.  Florida also had stay at home orders in place from the third week of our trip, so we were unable to use the free tickets we were given to the likes of Disney World and Universal Studios.  This was obviously hugely disappointing for the boys.   

“Getting home was tricky due to most flights being cancelled, but to come home to the welcome we got was phenomenal and completely heart-warming.  My mam had tracked me half way across the world and liaised with colleagues to arrange the amazing welcome.”

Ryan adds, “I have taken it all on the chin and it hasn’t even left a bruise!”, which is testament to just how much of a warrior he has been.  

Being in a caring profession, Elaine is missing helping her colleagues and team mates caring for local communities dealing with the pandemic and whilst wanting to return to work to support them, she knows she must put her boys’ safety, health and wellbeing first. 

Elaine finished, “We don't know what the future holds just yet, but we are keeping everything crossed that this treatment will work and Ryan's fight with cancer will be a fight he won.  I'm thinking of my colleagues and friends at work and wish you well.  Stay safe everybody and look after each other.” 

To find out more about the family’s journey, visit: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/linsey-gittins?utm_id=2&utm_term=34M5XqGqq 

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