A dad-of-two has been told he may have as little as 12 months to live after being diagnosed with the most aggressive form of brain cancer.
Fit and active Dave Williams, 41, was complaining of dizzy spells and headaches during the summer but continued working for the Welsh NHS during the coronavirus crisis.
After suffering a sudden facial droop and a weakness down his left side in September he was taken to hospital for scans where a cancerous tumour was found in his brain.
Surgeons at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff then performed an operation two weeks later to remove as much of the mass as possible – but in the process Dave suffered a stroke. He is now undergoing intensive rehabilitation to learn how to walk and use his left side again.
His devastated wife Victoria, 36, said: “He was working during Covid and right up until he was diagnosed so it’s just been like a bolt from the blue. It’s just so scary.”
Victoria, from Langstone, Newport, said there was very little in the way of symptoms until just weeks before his diagnosis.
“For about a month before he was diagnosed he felt quite dizzy and had some pressure headaches, especially when he was leaning forward,” she recalled.
“He then had an episode the day before he was diagnosed where he had a sudden onset left-sided facial droop and had a bit of weakness on his one side that lasted a couple of seconds.
“It was really frightening. I think on that day I just got the sudden realisation that something really bad was going on.”
Using her experience as a locum GP Victoria wondered whether her husband had suffered a stroke.
“He doesn’t smoke, he doesn’t drink much, and he’s quite a healthy and active person who often surfs and plays basketball. He doesn’t have any risk factors for a stroke,” she said.
Following the scans Dave was told he had a grade four glioblastoma multiforme, a highly-aggressive brain tumour with a poor prognosis.
“The surgery was good in that it got all the visible tumour out but he had a stroke in theatre,” she added.
“He’s been recovering ever since. Initially he couldn’t walk, he had no movement on his left side, so he’s had to completely rehabilitate himself. He’s been quite motivated and is making good progress.”
After a two-week spell in hospital he was allowed home to have both NHS and private physiotherapy.
Victoria, who has two children with Dave called Harry, five, and Clara, three, said the whole ordeal has made her and the family deeply upset and anxious for the future.
“He’s such a good dad to our children. You just think all of this is incredibly unfair. Our world has been ripped apart so quickly.”
Even though the visible parts of the tumour have been removed his brain cancer has been classed as incurable.
“The whole point of the treatment is just to extend his life as much as possible so he needs to have fairly intensive chemotherapy and radiotherapy which he’s starting today [Monday] in Velindre.”
The plan is for Dave to travel to London frequently to take part in a clinical trial. Following this he may need to head to Germany for an experimental treatment which costs in the region of £250,000.
A GoFundMe page has been set up in a bid to reach that ambitious milestone. To donate please go here.
“It’s quite a targeted treatment for his type of tumour so that’s what we’re trying to fundraise for at the moment,” Victoria added. “Because these things are experimental they’re not available on the NHS.”
People with this type of brain tumour are typically given between 12 and 15 months to live, Victoria admitted.
“Dave is really kind, really funny, and he wouldn’t hurt anyone,” she added. “He’s really popular, really sociable, looks after himself, and he’s really bright.”
Dave, who works in forensic mental health at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, and the rest of his family are keen to raise awareness of his condition.