'My grandchildren are my life and I feel that's been taken away from me' says inspirational Sheffield A&E worker battling brain tumour
A young grandmother from Sheffield says a potentially deadly brain tumour has stolen her greatest pleasure in life - holding and cuddling her beloved grandchildren.
Nicola Allender was a seemingly healthy and active 46-year-old until the evening of November 25 last year, when she had a seizure and collapsed on the stairs at her home in Ecclesfield.
Medics removed part of the brain tumour which caused the seizure, but it has grown back larger and she could have just months left to live.
The receptionist, who had worked in the A&E department at the Northern General Hospital for more than 20 years, has since suffered many more seizures, her vision has deteriorated so badly she can no longer read, she has limited movement on the left side of her body and she often gets muddled over words or puts her clothes on inside out.
"My grandchildren are my life and I feel like that's been taken away from me, because I can no longer pick them up and cuddle them and look after them," she said.
"Sometimes I lose control and my hand forms a claw shape and my arm will suddenly flap up by itself, which can be unfortunate for people around me."
Nicola has been diagnosed with glioblastoma - the same particularly aggressive form of brain tumour MP Tessa Jowell revealed she is battling - and she is undergoing intensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
She is determined to make the most of what time she has left with friends and family, and she wants to use her fight to raise awareness of brain cancer and the need for more funding into treatments and a possible cure.
Her friends are showing their support by raising money to buy Nicola a walk-in bath, which she now needs due to the tumour, with any additional cash raised going to The Brain Tumour Charity.
Nicola, who prefers to call her tumour a 'tuna' as it sounds less threatening, told how there were no symptoms until the day of the seizure, when she felt a sharp pain above her eyebrows.
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Looking back, she says she had been suffering from neck pain, which can be a symptom, but it is unclear whether this was connected.
She was put into an induced coma following the seizure and only learned what had hppened when she woke four days later in hospital.
She was shocked to discover that, according to The Brain Tumour Charity, less than two per cent of the money spent researching cancer in the UK is used for brain tumour research - despite around 30 people in the UK being diagnosed each day with the disease, which is one of the deadliest forms of cancer.
"I just want to make people aware of this form of tuna and the need for more research to help others who are diagnosed," she said.
"It's not connected with your lifestyle, it's not hereditary and the symptoms are often hard to spot. It can affect anyone at any time, and it's something you can just be walking about with, completely unaware."
Brain tumours in adults can cause headaches, changes to vision and nausea, though the symptoms vary from person to person.
Nicola's close friend Nikki Holman is organising a raffle to raise money for her and for The Brain Tumour Charity, with prizes including a stay at Staindrop Lodge in Chapeltown, beauty treatments and a food hamper.
"Nicola's such a loving, caring person and we'd do anything to make whatever time she has left as happy as possible," she said.
Raffle tickets, costing £2 each or £5 for a strip of three, are on sale at the Northern General Hospital's A&E department and at Perfection Hair and Beauty, on Wolfe Road, in Fox Hill. You can also buy them by emailing Nikki at firstname.lastname@example.org or contacting her via her Facebook page 'Nikki Louise'.