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Brain cancer walk date an 'omen' for Adelaide's Daniel


There were no hints of the tumor growing in Daniel Stevens’ brain until he suddenly collapsed and suffered a seizure in a hotel room during an interstate work trip.

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A work colleague discovered the father of two young girls lying on the floor and called an ambulance to immediately transfer him to a small hospital outside Perth.

When Daniel’s wife Donna and brother Jeff arrived at his side from Adelaide, he was still unconscious.

“Donna worked at SA Health and she knew if there were any head injuries from the seizure that the hospital I was in was too small, she organised to have me moved to Fiona Stanley Hospital in Perth,” Daniel says.

“Then she pretty much jumped on a plane with my brother Jeff and met me at the hospital. In the morning I came to and they were ready to do further testing… hoping it was an infection in the brain they could clear up with antibiotics.”

Those tests showed the seizure was not caused by an infection. Specialists instead discovered a grade two tumour measuring about 40mm by 70mm they believed had been growing on the front right lobe of Daniel’s brain for at least 20 years.

They told Daniel, whose daughters Annabelle and Madeleine were only seven and four years old at the time, that he required immediate surgery.

Donna managed to persuade staff that Daniel should be moved back to Adelaide near family for the operation that he still remembers clearly, one where he was required to be conscious as surgeons detached part of his skull to successfully remove the tumor.

Daniel was 38 years old. Now, six years later after enduring chemotherapy and an epilepsy diagnosis, Daniel is grateful to be alive and plans to celebrate his birthday on October 8 by joining a fundraising walk to help others fighting brain cancer.

“It’s the first time I’ve actually known about it (the fundraising walk) and it happens to fall on my birthday this year, it seems a bit of an omen,” the project engineer at McConnell Dowell says.

A family picture taken within six months of Daniel Stevens’ brain tumor operation, with his daughter Madeleine (left) wife Donna and daughter Annabelle. Photo: supplied

Walk4BrainCancer will raise money for vital research and Daniel will be walking alongside his wife, daughters, and others affected by what is the leading cause of cancer deaths in children and adults aged under 40 years.

“A colleague of Donna’s found out her husband had brain cancer about six months after I was diagnosed, it was a little bit more aggressive than mine was and labelled a grade three, but the technology had moved forward in that six months and his surgery was successful,” Daniel says.

“And that’s why I feel I want to be involved in this walk, to support research … one of the best things I was told was by a doctor saying to me that ‘we will look after the tumor, you just look after yourself and get on with your life’.

“I reflect back on that a fair bit and he was right, there’s no use pondering about it, I need to just get on with life and if it comes back, they will fix it.”

Among those joining the walk is leading fundraiser Natalie Sait, who shares her own personal story on the event’s online event page.

“I will be taking part in Walk4BrainCancer to raise money for world-class brain cancer research, advocacy and awareness, in honour of my beautiful partner Travis,” she writes.

“Each year I usually take part in Dry July to raise money for St Vincent’s Cancer Centre to thank them for the care they provided both Travis and I, throughout his brain cancer journey.

“I am not only walking for Travis but for everyone who has ever or will ever be affected by the brutal impacts of brain cancer.”

For Daniel it is still a challenge having to endure ongoing check-ups and medication for epilepsy that can get him down, but he feels lucky to have a network of support from his wife and daughters along with his wider family.

“We have a big family and it’s always about looking after family, my brother, he’s my best mate now, it certainly brought us closer, that’s for sure,” he says.

And he is determined to remain accepting in his own health battles.

“I think it’s part of life, everyone gets ill, unfortunately some people get a worse diagnosis and I was one of those … I guess I’m one of the lucky ones though, I’m still around and still breathing and life goes on.”

Click here to donate to help Daniel raise funds for brain cancer research.

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