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Key worker diagnosed with brain tumour after boss spots symptoms at work

  • Health care assistant credits her manager for saving her life

  • Neurology nursing background alerted her to worrying symptoms

A key worker is undergoing treatment for an aggressive brain tumour after her manager noticed her behavioural changes at work and called an ambulance.

Nicky Sale who lives in the Barbican area of Plymouth, now credits her boss Sheena Adams, a former neurology nurse, with saving her life.

Sudden behavioural changes set alarm bells ringing for deputy manager Sheena as healthcare assistant Nicky went about her work at Sanctuary Care’s Furzehatt Residential and Nursing Home in Plymstock.

As a result of Sheena’s quick-thinking, Nicky was admitted to Derriford Hospital in Plymouth in February where she was diagnosed with an aggressive glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Nicky was stunned to be told by doctors that, without treatment, she would be dead within three to four months but, with treatment, she could survive 13 to 15 months or maybe longer.

Within days, Nicky underwent surgery which removed around 80% of the tumour and is now nearing the end of six weeks of radiotherapy with concurrent chemotherapy. She then has a month’s break before starting more aggressive chemotherapy.

Nicky, 57, mum to 18-year-old son Leo, said: “Sheena is an absolute superstar. If it hadn’t been for her, God knows what would have happened. I probably would be dead by now. There is no doubt in my mind that she saved my life.”

Sheena, 37, says she is grateful the diagnosis came before it was too late.

Sheena, who had previously worked with neurology patients at Derriford during her nursing career, spotted her colleague was struggling with words and having problems with completing paperwork.

She said: “Nicky has a bubbly and lovely eccentric personality. I noticed that the documentation she is required to fill in as part of her job was uncharacteristically poor and made a mental note to raise this when she returned to work a few days later. As soon as she was back from holiday, I realised Nicky was really having to think about her words. I asked her whether she had been drinking or taking drugs, although I thought that was unlikely. It was then I noticed a tremor in her arm and things started to add up. I did some clinical observations on Nicky and phoned for an ambulance.”

Now, three months on, and motivated by Nicky’s diagnosis, Sheena is joining thousands of other fundraisers around the country, by taking part in Jog 26 Miles in May to raise money for Brain Tumour Research.

The miles can be completed however and with whoever participants like, ensuring they follow COVID-19 safety guidelines. Whether it’s jogging around the local park or running track, clocking up the miles on a treadmill or doing laps of the garden, the possibilities are endless. Registrants can complete this virtual challenge in a way that suits them and at their own pace. For example, they could jog a different distance each day in May, to make up a total of 26 miles by the end of the month. Or, they could even choose to complete a full marathon in one go.

Sheena said: “I am not a runner, so I am mixing walking with running and involving our residents, many of whom suffer with neurological conditions including Parkinson’s, dementia or even brain tumours. I am often pushing someone in a wheelchair along a half-mile route so they feel part of our fundraiser inspired by Nicky. And I am also asking their relatives to sponsor me!”

Nicky added: “I am very touched that Sheena is fundraising for Brain Tumour Research along with the residents, inspired by me. Treatment for brain tumours has barely changed in decades.”

To join Sheena by signing up to take part, please join the Jog 26 Miles in May Facebook Group and follow the three simple steps to get started. Once registered, Brain Tumour Research will send you a free gift and printed mile tracker. If you raise £274 or more, you’ll receive a special medal in June, once you’ve completed your challenge.

Melanie Tiley, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: “We were so very sorry to learn about Nicky’s diagnosis and wish her all the best for her gruelling chemotherapy treatment.

“What Sheena is doing is really inspirational and we will be cheering her and the residents on, every step of the way. Nicky’s story reminds us that brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age. We are determined to continue in our mission to find better outcomes and ultimately a cure for this terrible disease.”

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK, including at its Centre of Excellence within the University of Plymouth. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure. The charity is calling for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.

To donate to Brain Tumour Research inspired by Sheena and Nicky, go to and share your reason as Sheena Adams’ Jog 26 Miles

Brain Tumour Research is the source of this information. Additional facts and statistics are available from our website.

Brain Tumour Research is the only national charity in the UK singularly focused on finding a cure for brain tumours through campaigning for an increase in the national investment into research to £35 million per year, while fundraising to create a sustainable network of brain tumour research centres in the UK.

The £35 million a year funding would bring parity with other cancers such as breast and leukaemia after historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours. This increased commitment would enable the ground-breaking research needed to accelerate the translation from laboratory discoveries into clinical trials and fast-track new therapies for this devastating disease.

Brain Tumour Research is a powerful campaigning organisation and represents the voice of the brain tumour community across the UK. We helped establish and provide the ongoing Secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Brain Tumours (APPGBT) which published its report Brain Tumours A cost too much to bear? in 2018. Led by the charity, the report examines the economic and social impacts of a brain tumour diagnosis.

We are also a lead player on the Steering Group for the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission.

We welcome the 2018 funding announcements for research into brain tumours from the UK Government and Cancer Research UK – £65 million pledged over five years. However, this potential funding of £13 million a year comes with a catch – money will only be granted to quality research proposals and, due to the historic lack of investment, there may not be enough of these applications that qualify for grants from this pot. We are working through the APPGBT to hold the government to account and ensure this money is spent on research into brain tumours.

Key statistics on brain tumours:

  • Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age

  • Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

  • Historically, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours

  • In the UK, 16,000 people each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour

  • Brain tumours kill more children than leukaemia

  • Brain tumours kill more men under 70 than prostate cancer

  • Brain tumours kill more women under 35 than breast cancer

  • Less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers

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1 Comment

Richards Poppy
Richards Poppy
May 23, 2021

thats such a shame hope your okay.

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