Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, it can be difficult to remember that there are other healthcare issues affecting people in the UK.
March is Brain Tumour Awareness month and according to Brain Tumour Research, approximately 16,000 people are diagnosed every year in the UK with a brain tumour.
One of those 16,000 was model and female entrepreneur Caprice Bourret, who became involved with the charity after being diagnosed with a meningioma tumour back in 2017.
Meningioma brain tumours develop in the meninges – membranes in the brain – and are more common in older people and women.
Speaking on White Wine Question Time, Caprice revealed that she only discovered her tumour after taking part in reality TV show, The Jump, where celebrities try to master various winter sports.
“I started to get these headaches and I thought, ‘Well that's normal; I'm falling every two seconds and hitting my head’,” Caprice told podcast host Kate Thornton.
Thankfully, Channel 4, who produced the show, forced her to get it checked out.
“Their health and safety and their duty of care is beyond believable,” said Caprice. “They forced me to go see someone and I did this scan… I remember waiting in this hospital for like four hours. I said, ‘I have a live show to do right now. I need to go!’”
She continued: “The neurosurgeon came in and she said, ‘Well, you have a brain tumour’. So, I said, ‘Am I getting punked here? What's going on? You’re joking?’”
As the surgeon explained more – that it may be benign or cancerous – Caprice said the reality of the situation finally hit home.
“I just broke down,” she said. “I lost it. I was in Austria and everyone was at home, here in London.”
‘You have to get rid of it’
Caprice had surgery a month later back in London. The surgery, which was eight-and-a-half hours long, involved removing part of her skull with Caprice waking up in intensive care.
“I didn't know I would be in ICU,” she told Kate. “I had tubes coming out from every opening of my body – other than my ears. I just had no idea. You go into a surgery like this and you think, ‘Am I going to wake up from this?’”
“Then another thing is once you do wake up, you don't know if your body's going to work properly. You have those risks highlighted to you, but you have to get rid of [the tumour].”
While Caprice was told the recovery period would be six months, she actually went back to work just two weeks later. But perhaps the most surprising thing was that no-one, apart from her husband, knew what she was going through.
Caprice admitted: “I didn't tell anyone about this other than my husband. I didn't tell my mum. She didn't talk to me for three months, but I just didn't want to worry anyone.”
Lynette Evans, a counsellor and psychotherapist at The Listening Helper, says Caprice’s secretive approach isn’t that surprising.
“People quite often do this as they don’t want to burden their loved ones with uncertainty and stress,” she says.
“It can also be because some people do not want to expose their own vulnerabilities, particularly if they have a self-belief that they are ‘the strong one’ in the relationship.”
Sharing is important
Caprice says that she didn’t want to tell people because they’d be worrying for weeks prior to her surgery.
“People think I was horrible,” she said. “But you know, when something like this happens, maybe you don't think logically. I just didn't want to worry anyone.”
Rebecca Martin, 36, who runs her own company RLM Consulting, knows only too well the impact a brain tumour can have on family life – her brother David was diagnosed with one a couple of years ago.
“At first, I didn't want anyone to know,” she says. “The look on the faces of the first people I told was just so terrifying. Full of doom and pity. I felt they were thinking the worst.”
Lynette agrees that while telling people what you’re going through is important, some people aren’t able to cope with the news as well as others.
She says: “Sometimes loved ones can be so upset by news of a major illness, they cannot get past their own feelings regarding your illness. Instead of them supporting you, you can find yourself comforting and supporting them.”
In an interview with the Daily Mail at the time of her recovery, Caprice even admitted to not telling the whole truth to her partner Ty Comfort.
“I didn't even tell him it was a tumour,” she told the Mail. “I told him it was a growth in my head. I didn't want to worry him until I had answers.”
Rebecca is glad she eventually opened up to her friends, as it helped her process the whole experience.
“Gradually, it became cathartic to talk about it,” she says. “Therapy helped. And I also began to feel it was important to educate people. Talking about it also opened us up for emotional support and even the simplest ‘How is he?’ made us feel less alone.”
How to talk about your brain tumour
Broaching such a major subject as this can be daunting, but Lynette says while the doctors are dealing with the physical side to the illness, you still need emotional support.
She says: “It’s your loved ones who will be your key care givers for your emotional wellbeing during and after treatment.”
What if your loved one is going through something similar, and like Caprice, keeps their cards close to their chest? Lynette’s advice is to tread carefully.
“Tentatively approach them using open statements like ‘I notice that you are not yourself at the moment…’ Or an open question such as ‘What is going on for you right now?’” she says.
“This allows a reflective space to access a person’s true feelings. It’s also about owning your own feelings so that you are not coming across as confrontational, which can cause the other person to be defensive.”
A new outlook
While a brain tumour is a serious thing to go through, coming through the other side has given Caprice a fresh perspective on life.
Not only is she now patron for Brain Tumour Research, helping to raise millions of pounds to carry on with valuable research, but she also licensed her business, enabling her to spend more time with her two boys.
READ MORE: Caprice's 'insane' route to parenting
She said: “The doctor just said, ‘Cap, you’ve got to change your life – you've got really young kids.’ And he was so right.
“I found somebody and licensed it out, which is funny because in life things happen for a reason. I would never have licensed it out if I didn't have this health scare because I was making money. I was doing well, but now I'm doing even better!”
Rebecca agrees that a major illness makes you re-assess everything: she believes her brother’s illness has given her a different perspective on life.
“Going to work after a weekend of being in intensive care with him... that was when it hit me,” she says. “Nothing else matters when your sibling and best friend is going through this. Life is precious. Be nice to people.
She continues: “Don’t sweat the small stuff. These things make you stronger in lots of ways.”
Wear A Hat Day takes place on 27 March and helps raise money for Caprice’s charity Brain Tumour Research. The charity is encouraging everyone to join in virtually this year – find out more on their official site.