Christopher Ainge

Christopher Ainge

During July of 2004, our son Christopher, then aged just 19, started complaining about headaches. He visited his local GP, but the initial diagnosis was nothing more than possible migraine.
Christopher's Tribute

During August the headaches continued and he started having problems with his eyesight. On the last Friday in August, Chris visited his GP again just before we were due to embark on a golfing weekend. The doctor told Chris that he was concerned about the back of his eyes and that he wanted to refer him to a specialist. I contacted the doctor and he explained his concerns, but said to go on the golf weekend and see him again on the Monday. Incredibly even with his difficulties, Chris beat five other competitors to win the trophy, but it was the last time he ever played!

Monday 6th September 2004, was the start of a nightmare journey that no-one would have predicted. A CT scan showed a growth which was creating pressure inside his head; two minor operations later and we thought the tumour was benign, but a major operation was scheduled to remove as much as was possible.

A permanent side effect of this operation was that Chris was left with double vision that could only be dealt with by wearing glasses with one lens occluded. Although this operation was largely successful with respect to the debulking, there was some concern over the grade of the tumour. A week or so later, we were all summoned to meet with Chris’s neurosurgeon, who had the difficult job of breaking the news that the tumour was malignant, later confirmed as a Glioblastoma Multiforme.

Knowing nothing about Brain Tumours at the time, the seriousness of the situation was explained to us and the options for treatment discussed. Chris was offered the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial, researching the effectiveness of a new combination of chemotherapy drugs and this gave us some hope.

Three months later however, an MRI scan showed significant progression of the tumour and Chris was rushed into the standard treatment of aggressive radiotherapy. Although this treatment had its side effects, it was effective in stalling the progression of the disease, but we knew it wasn’t a cure.

Following the radiotherapy treatment in February 2005, we were able to take Chris on a well deserved holiday in the sun and our spirits lifted a little. On our return, Chris started a new course of Chemotherapy treatment, but he was often very sick and tired and throughout the next few months he was regularly taken into hospital to have his symptoms stabilised and managed, primarily through increased doses of steroids. By July 2005, Chris was very poorly and our options seemed limited.

At this point, we were again given some hope in that Chris was offered a new treatment involving surgery to debulk the tumour and to implant chemotherapy impregnated wafers into what remained. Chris’s surgeon almost decided not to proceed, such was the extent of the swelling, but thankfully he was able to implant the wafers, although little could be done with the tumour. Within 24 hours, Chris made a surprise entrance into a charity ball that we had previously organised as the final event of a 6 month fundraising campaign. Throughout this whole experience, Chris never ceased to amaze us with his strength, his positive outlook and his lack of complaint.

The surgery was followed by ongoing monthly chemotherapy which Chris tolerated extremely well. For the next 11 months, Chris’s quality of life improved tremendously and once again we couldn’t help but hope. In August 2006, Chris was ‘best man’ at his brother’s wedding and the week following we took him to Lourdes, which he described as being “one of the best experiences of my life”.

Since June however, he had been showing increasingly more symptoms including lack of balance, numbness on his right side and he was barely able to write his name on the wedding register. A week or so after returning from Lourdes, he became very sick once again and was sent for a new MRI scan. It was no surprise to learn that the tumour had progressed. The only possible treatment option was to repeat the surgical procedure and re-implant the wafers that had worked so well on the last occasion.

We are fortunate enough to have a family cottage near the North Yorkshire coast so we took Chris away for the weekend before his scheduled operation on the first Monday in September. We spent the weekend doing all the things we had done for years, although on this occasion Chris was wheelchair bound. Monday came all too quickly. Each time surgery is performed, the risks increase, but Chris bravely signed the consent form and we once again spent hours anxiously awaiting his return from theatre. True to form, later that evening Chris was in recovery and 48 hours later he was at home; we all felt relieved and were looking forward to better times again.

The next day however, events started to take a final twist. Throughout the day, Chris became increasingly sick and he was eventually rushed into hospital once again. That night his condition deteriorated and he was taken down to have a shunt fitted to relieve the intracranial pressure. Instead of the usual news that Chris was recovering in intensive care, we were later taken to a recovery room, where Chris was having a seizure. Throughout that day and night we waited at Chris’s bedside for him to come round. He eventually did but he was unable to speak and seemed hardly to know us. Over the next couple of weeks, we hoped that Chris would gradually regain his normal senses, but it wasn’t to be.

Chris was moved to Martin House hospice; he started having regular fits and we were advised that he probably had as little as two weeks to live. We celebrated his 21st birthday with a small party during this time, a lot different to the large event he had been planning. Twelve days later at 06:15 on October 12th, Chris finally and inevitably lost his battle with this awful disease.

Chris was an amazing young man, who never lost his spirit and generosity towards others. I’m convinced he was more concerned about us, than he was for himself. We also met many other amazing people who cared for Chris and did their best to give him a quality life for as long as possible and we owe them so much.

Over the last two years, our family, friends and parish, have raised many thousands of pounds for Candlelighters and Martin House Hospice. Our wish now is to help raise funds for BTRS to support the much needed research into the treatment of Brain Tumours such that future patients can truly have hope of a cure.

Written by Peter and Pat Ainge, Christopher’s Parents
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