A York man who developed the same aggressive brain tumour as his wife in a “one-in-a-million” diagnosis sent selfies as he stayed awake during five hours of surgery.
Jim Murphy 54, was operated on during the lockdown at Hull Royal Infirmary, with both him and the surgical team in full PPE due to Covid-19 risk.
Mr Murphy said: “In a bizarre way, I really enjoyed the surgery.
“It was like a great meeting at work where I was one of the key decision makers helping to guide the team on how far they could go.”
He said: “I listened to music to help drown out the noise of the surgical instruments and even sent selfies of me in theatre to my friends and family via WhatsApp.
“At first people couldn’t believe it but were chuffed to think they were involved in some way, messaging me back to say ‘OMG are you being operated on now?’.”
Round of applause
The Asda buying manager said he was amazed to be awake to witness the whole surgical team giving him a round of applause at the end.
“It was a wonderful moment,” he said.
Mr Murphy, from Cawood, said that he never imagined his symptoms meant he had a brain tumour despite his wife, Gill, 47, being diagnosed with one 18 years earlier and having three operations herself.
He said that Mrs Murphy’s tumour recently became aggressive. It is a glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which is the same type as her husband’s and the most virulent form of brain tumour.
“What are the chances of that? You just couldn’t make it up could you?” Mr Murphy said.
“I have been so inspired by her journey and the fact that she is still here – after being told initially she had just a few years – gives me great hope that I can beat it too.”
He said he was was given the option of an awake craniotomy where he would be brought round for part of the operation so surgeons could monitor his motor skills.
Now he hopes to inspire others to opt for the procedure.
He said: “Being brave for just a few hours of your life can have a massive effect on the rest of your life.
“I was told that because of the location of the tumour, the surgical team’s expectation pre-op was they would only be able to extract 85-90% of the tumour.
“I firmly believe that because I took control of my own treatment plan and helped to guide the surgeon and his team away from the critical motor strip by staying awake, they were able to remove so much more.”
Circle of Hope
Since Mrs Murphy’s diagnosis, the couple, who have two teenage children, have raised nearly £90,000 for the national charity Brain Tumour Research through the Circle of Hope group they set up.
Brain Tumour Research spokesman Hugh Adams said: “It is absolutely appalling to think that they are now both fighting GBM, the most aggressive of all brain tumour types.
“It’s a one in a million chance that a couple would both have this diagnosis.
“As Jim and Gill know from their own experiences, improvements in surgical techniques and treatment options only come about because of research and it is vital that we continue to invest money if we are to improve outcomes and, eventually find a cure.”
The couple are urging people to support the charity by taking part in Wear A Hat Day with Flowers on June 19.