Abta LifeLine will launch an appeal at the Agent Achievement Awards in July to help former homeworker Tina Lee, who was left disabled after treatment for a brain tumour. Juliet Dennis reports
Tina Lee is one of the most positive people you are likely to meet. For 30 years she worked in the travel industry, starting as a trainee travel agent at the age of 16 at Bakers Dolphin in Weston-super-Mare and later carving out a successful career as a Hays Travel homeworker.
What happened next to the bubbly mum-of-two is nothing short of tragic. In 2007, Tina was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour, which grew quickly.
In 2010, doctors decided Tina needed treatment to shrink the tumour. She was given stereotactic radiosurgery, a radiation therapy which involved wearing a head frame for 45 minutes while a high dosage of medication was targeted at an area of her brain.
The treatment meant she could not work or drive for six months but there was no suggestion from doctors that it would not work.
Sadly, that was not the case.
“It went terribly wrong,” says Tina. “My brain surgeon said he had never seen a reaction like it. Instead of my tumour shrinking, the whole of my brain swelled.”
For months, Tina suffered fits and headaches. She recalls: “I would black out and take two to three hours to come round. It was very scary. My sight also started to go.”
Six months after the treatment Tina had a fit, after which she could not recognise her then seven-year old daughter or speak properly. Her brain had swollen to such an extent doctors had to remove a quarter ofher skull. Her sight was damaged beyond repair, and she was left partially sighted. She will need steroids for the rest of her life.
Tina says: “It was a life or death situation. I had emergency surgery which lasted over nine hours.”
She is pragmatic, despite the fact life as she knew it had collapsed.
After surgery she had to use a frame to walk. Even now, her poor sight means she finds it hard to balance and she needs help to do simple tasks. The steroids have caused her to put on nine stone in weight and led to cancer scares.
Tina has had to give up her career and move to a smaller house. She can no longer drive and now relies on her 29-year-old daughter Zoe for daily help as well as her 13-year-old daugher Amelia. But Tina, 51, remains undaunted about the future.
“I am not the type of person to get depressed,” she says.
“I’m quite a positive person. I can’t walk round the shops with my daughters but there are lots of things we can do together.”
It is the small things that can make the biggest difference for Tina. Her everyday life – she lives in Weston-super-Mare – would be greatly improved if she could walk around her small garden, which has uneven paving slabs and is too dangerous for her. She survives on a disability living allowance of £500 a month but has no extra funds to make her garden more accessible.
Abta LifeLine has launched an appeal to raise £4,000 to improve Tina’s garden by replacing her decking and laying artificial turf.
She says: “I feel so humbled Abta LifeLine wants to help me. When they said they’d help, I felt guilty they weren’t helping someone else more in need. I am not the best gardener but I do like to potter!” Abta LifeLine will be promoting the appeal at Travel Weekly’s Agent Achievement Awards on July 13.
Abta LifeLine director Trudie Drake says: “Tina has worked in our industry for over 30 years, only having to stop when she became ill.
“It would be amazing to create a safe environment for her to enjoy. Help us hit our target to make her dream come reality.”
To donate: justgiving.com/abta
What is Abta LifeLine?
Abta LifeLine provides support to current and former employees of Abta members and their families facing difficult circumstances. These could be a medical condition, disability, bereavement or personal crisis that puts pressure on finances. The charity can help with essential daily living costs such as food or bills, funding for mobility aids, or emergency home repairs. Go to Abtalifeline.org.uk
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