‘There is life after being told you have brain cancer’: Arkesden resident Jim Miles shares his story

Jim Miles

Jim Miles - Credit: Archant

For Jim Miles life is about enjoying the simple things. Walking his dogs with wife Cathy, playing golf, and writing his blog.

Addenbrooke's Hospital's state-of-the-art microscope.

Addenbrooke's Hospital's state-of-the-art microscope. - Credit: Carl Zeiss

Above all, life is about spending time with family and friends and making the most of every day.

Every day counts because Jim is dying from brain cancer.

A tumour forced the 64-year-old to give up his job running a children’s book publishing company near Thaxted.

Having spent his life in publishing he and Gerard Kelly set up Miles Kelly in 1996. His office was the place where, in January 2011, the Arkesden resident suffered a seizure which ultimately led to his diagnosis.

But Jim is alive today because of the pioneering surgery at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

The neurosurgical microscope used could extend – and maybe save – many other lives, but to meet the demand, £325,000 must be raised to purchase another.

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That is what Jim is focused on.

“It was the most amazing bit of kit because it allowed the surgeon to pinpoint the tumour so they could operate with precision,” he said.

“The tumour is in the speech and language part of my brain so what they had to do is make sure they weren’t damaging any healthy tissue whilst they were removing it.

“I was woken up during the procedure so the surgeons could ask me questions to make sure they weren’t cutting into the healthy part of my brain.”

His wife Cathy said: “A brain tumour is not the sort of thing you think is going to happen to you, so when we were told Jim had one, it was very hard to take in.

“We were shell-shocked for a long time. We had only married in 2008 and we were anticipating a long life together.”

After the surgery, Jim was given a bleak prognosis. He was told average survival was 12 to 18 months.

“It was horrifying to hear that,” Jim said, “but we were more optimistic when we were later told that some people, following radiotherapy and chemotherapy, survived two years or more.”

Despite the success of the operation, five months later the tumour regrew. Jim was initially told that it was no longer a case of years, but months of survival.

Further chemotherapy has stopped the growth of the tumour so far.

There is a chance he could yet go under the knife once more in the future, with the same microscopic camera used again to remove as much of the tumour as possible.

Jim is collating his thoughts on a blog he created in the months following his diagnosis.

“I started writing the blog to give hope to other people affected with the same diagnosis and to show them that there is life after being told you have brain cancer,” he said.

“I’m being positive and I hope this rubs off on them when they read it. The blog has been read by people all over the world, so I take comfort from that, but it is as much for me as anyone else.”

Cathy said: “We’ve learned to cherish what is important in life. We’re in the business of living not dying. Love and laughter is the key for us.”

In a cruel twist of fate Jim’s sister was diagnosed with a terminal disease a year ago. Vicky, 69, was told she had Motor Neurone Disease.

But if the odds on that were long, they were nothing compared with the loss of his second wife Kate.

“Kate died suddenly from a brain aneurism in 2006,” he said. “What I now know is that this equipment is used to treat brain cancer and aneurisms – which is really quite peculiar.”

It is not just about the neurosurgical microscope, though. Jim and Cathy have also raised more than £1,500 for The Brain Tumour Charity.

Its aim is to improve the diagnosis, treatment and understanding of brain tumours and one day beat the devastating disease.

Colin Watts, honorary consultant neurosurgeon at Addenbrooke’s, said: “We perform nearly 500 tumour-related surgical operations each year and this number is rising as the regional population grows.

“At the moment, only one per cent of all cancer research funding is allocated to brain tumour research. This means we are unable to make as much progress as we’d like in tackling the disease, and that’s why we need funding to recruit additional, highly-skilled researchers.”

To view Jim’s blog, visit jimbo63.com