Sometimes life-changing moments need to happen to make people pursue what they’re truly passionate about. Sometimes, it becomes simply essential to work towards the goal of making a difference. As was the case with the creation of Ingenious Gifts.
The month of March is traditionally a time to celebrate Mother’s Day. It is also Brain Tumour Awareness Month. We never imagined that these two focuses would mean the world to our story, and that they would be so entwined. So March is the perfect time to tell our tale.
We’re Andrew and Michelle. Back in 2019, we launched Ingenious Gifts after our lives changed instantaneously with Michelle’s diagnosis of a brain tumour – just six months after the birth of our son.
The news was devastating. Michelle was 39 when she received her diagnosis and had only recently given birth to her third child. It felt so unexpected at her stage of life and completely and utterly frightening.
Did you know that brain tumours kill more adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer? Approximately 16,000 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour in the UK every year. Yet the research for a cure has historically always been chronically underfunded.
Doctors believed that the tumour had been slowly developing in Michelle’s brain over a 15-year period. She went from having mild symptoms that had been discounted for a long time to a sudden onslaught of very severe ailments that lead to her diagnosis.
With two teenage kids and a newborn, Michelle was a busy working mum and her symptoms had been largely attributed to pregnancy and then postpartum hormones. These included bouts of dizziness, headaches, sickness, insomnia, weakness in her legs, and feeling confused. ‘Baby brain’ was blamed when she kept on losing her keys and then finding them in the kitchen sink!
Michelle never thought there was anything seriously wrong. But then she had our son and the symptoms didn’t go away. Instead the headaches kept on increasing in intensity and severity. After a trip to the doctors, she was put on a waiting list for a CT scan.
However, at this point things escalated quickly. During a routine family meal out at a restaurant, Michelle suddenly felt dizzy, disorientated, and exhausted – like she was drunk! We went straight to A&E where, after a scan, she was told to wait in a side room.
Life changed overnight.
The diagnosis was a complete blur to us and Michelle remembers very little of it. She was shown an image on the computer, which to her looked just like a big, meaningless blob. The verdict was stark. She had a massive tumour growing on her right frontal lobe, which was affecting her personality, behaviour, and memory.
We endured a one-month wait between diagnosis and treatment: which in this case consisted of high doses of steroids and three surgeries. Michelle underwent a successful craniotomy to remove the tumour. After this, she had swelling in the brain and a cerebrospinal fluid leak, and so had further surgery to try to fix this. This was followed by a third surgery to divert the leak to her stomach.
Throughout the treatment, Michelle believed it was important to always be 100% honest with her eldest kids about the diagnosis and the expected results. She swore she would never lie to them.
To Michelle at this time, the kids were everything, but there was no capacity to think of anyone else. Especially in the first year after diagnosis, when she was in and out of hospital continuously. The high dosage of medication, combined with the tumour’s effects, caused her personality to become altered. She felt it ruined many of her closest relationships.
Ingenious Gifts was launched out of a desire to make sense of the situation, and as a way to distract and motivate us in a time of enormous uncertainty and stress. By realising what it put us through as a family, it pushed us to want to work towards making sure such a diagnosis didn’t affect anyone else in the same way.
The idea for Ingenious Gifts was formed. We started the website while in hospital, and wanted to ensure donations could be raised for The Brain Tumour Charity with every item sold from the site.
Prior to Michelle’s diagnosis, we knew nothing about brain tumours. Yet, since then, simple conversations (such as at bus stops!) lead to us meeting other people diagnosed in the same way. We soon realised that this disease was much more common than we had first believed.
The Brain Tumour Charity was vital for us – we used the website regularly for advice, information, support groups and forums. We were incredibly fortunate and are thankful every day for Michelle’s successful treatment. She now faces an annual MRI scan, usually just before Christmas – which allows for an anxious wait for the results over the festive period! But she has had three clear years so far. Our Christmas miracle.
We decided to create our online marketplace to help raise funds and awareness for The Brain Tumour Charity. This March, what better time of year to see what Ingenious Gifts can offer in the way of unique treasures for loved ones? And through shopping with us you will help to fund vital research to find a much-needed cure.
Thank you, from our family to yours, for the support.