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Attleborough dad with brain tumour speaks of trauma after months of misdiagnoses

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When father-of-three Gareth Stevens began experiencing a persistent toothache 15 months ago, he suspected something was not right.

Over several visits to his GP, he was told it could be the result of teeth clenching, or depression, before being misdiagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia – a chronic pain condition.

It was a year until he was finally referred for a CT scan, which discovered the pain – which by then had grown to consume his entire face – was the result of a large tumour on his brain.

Pictured from left: Christopher, Jennie, Gareth, Louis and Joseph Stevens. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022.
Pictured from left: Christopher, Jennie, Gareth, Louis and Joseph Stevens. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022.

Following an operation in November to have it partially removed, the former-soldier is now preparing for six weeks of radiotherapy, but is still burdened by the knowledge that had his early complaints been taken more seriously, things could have been very different.

“I had intense and excruciating pain in my head and my face,” said Mr Stevens, who lives in Attleborough.

“The doctors diagnosed me with low mood and depression – they thought it was causing me to exaggerate the pain and that it was all in my mind.

“I kept being fobbed off with different medications but I thought it must have been something more.”

It was not until the 41-year-old mentioned his cousin, who had recently died from a brain tumour, that he was referred for a CT scan.

The scan found he was suffering from chordoid meningioma – a rapidly growing brain tumour – and less than two weeks later he was undergoing surgery at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, to have it removed.

Because of how big the tumour had grown, part of it had attached to his optical nerve and could not be removed.

“It’s frustrating that it was left to continue like this and get to this stage,” added Mr Stevens, of Kingfisher Road.

“Had it been discovered when it was small, it would have been far easier to remove.”

He has been left with swelling on one side of his face, while the 100 per cent recurrence rate of chordoid meningiomas means his battle is far from over.

“It’s left me a shadow of my former self,” he said. “I have scars and it has changed the shape of my face, which has made meeting people in person more difficult.

“But one of the hardest things is I have lost my ability to do things – cooking a meal and getting around are so much harder.”

His condition meant Mr Stevens had to have his driving licence revoked, leaving him unable to carry out his work as a HGV driver, transporting tanks for the Ministry of Defence.

He and his three sons, Joseph, 13, Christopher, 10, and Louis, four, are now reliant on the income of his fiancée, Jennie Stevens, 39, to put food on the table.

Help has come in the form of a fundraiser – set up by Mr Stevens’ friends without his knowledge – with more than £5,000 raised.

“We were completely shocked; we both sat there and cried,” said Mr Stevens.

“I’m quite hard nosed, and I don’t cry much as it is, but I was so touched.

“Donations were coming from people we didn’t know. I’m adverse to calling them strangers – to us they are samaritans.”

To donate to the fundraiser, click here.

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