An Afghanistan military veteran discovered he had a deadly brain tumour – after he mistakenly chucked all his partner’s socks in the bin.
Former TA soldier James Flint served in Helmand with the Rifles but after his tour started to become ‘absent minded.’
He said he would sometimes feel “faint” during parades but first released something was wrong when he threw away the socks belonging to his wife Nicola without realising.
Concern increased when he also had no recollection of a three hour drive he took the following day.
James was later found on the floor after having a seizure.
In hospital he was then diagnosed with a 5.7cm tumour in his right frontal lobe and had surgery to remove it.
He then underwent several rounds of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
But James, a politics lecturer at the University of Plymouth, discovered a recurrence of the cancer during a routine MRI earlier this year.
This tumour was removed in March 2020 but has he can’t have any further conventional treatment he was given just months left to live.
His family are now desperately seeking funds to try for alternative therapy to help extend his’ life.
James, 34, of Plymouth, Devon, said: “The problem with any cancer diagnosis is that it doesn’t just affect you, but your family and friends as well.
“It has interjected a great deal of uncertainty into our lives, effecting personal and professional ambitions alike, including moral issues such as whether it is moral to have children, when we know I have such a short prognosis.
“Professionally speaking, many of the more ‘hands on’ professional opportunities such as a career in the Army, or the Merchant Navy or police are obviously ruled out if you are at risk of seizures.
“Health wise, I do my utmost to maintain a fair standard of physical fitness, but through the cancer itself combined with the various treatments, I find myself lacking in cognitive energy and frequently fatigued.
The ‘sock episode in March 2015 was followed by the nocturnal seizure a month later whilst James was reading for his PhD at the University of Plymouth.
James added: “This was an unexpected and surreal experience in its aftermath. My wife Nicola did not know what was happening as I was otherwise very fit and healthy. Thinking I may have been having a stroke she called an ambulance.
“After this event I sought to carry on as though nothing had happened but stopped driving obviously, as per doctors orders.
James said his first prognosis was 3-5 years, and he moderated his ‘bucket list’ to completing the PhD, and making his wife happy.
He added: “Thankfully, I had stable scan results for four and a half years and the initial ‘scanxiety’ gave way to a little bit of complacency.
“When the tumour did eventually regrow, it came as something of a shock, especially as I was not noticing new symptoms.”
He underwent his second surgery in March 2020, which revealed the growth to be Grade 4 Glioblastoma, with a potential prognosis of a “matter of months” as he had already had the maximum radiotherapy dose back in 2015.”
A fundraising appeal for immunotherapy treatment has now been launched.
But James said that despite never thought he had beaten the cancer.
He added: “Since serving as Infantry IRT close protection on the MERT medical evacuation flights in Helmand, I have been comfortable with my own mortality.
“However, being told you have brain cancer, and 3 to 5 years before it “will come back and significantly affect your life” is something that takes time to process.
“The summer of 2015 was a bit of a blur to me. Having my high standard of physical fitness taken away from me for a time was frustrating, as was losing my driving license on medical grounds – although I did regain this temporarily in the intervening years.
“Brain tumours can present themselves in peculiar ways – not simply headaches as people seem to imagine. Looking back, there are various little things which I might attribute to the tumour.
“For example, in the TA, I found that I felt faint on parade earlier than might be expected; after a while I would feel faint simply standing in queues in shops. I also found that on occasion that I couldn’t recollect something that I knew I certainly had reason to know, and other quirks of my memory, including forgetting having driven the previous day on one occasion.
“I used to sleeptalk and sleepwalk sometimes including leaving cupboard doors open and putting my wife’s socks in the bin on one occasion.
“The problem is that all these symptoms were relatively minor, and can be put down to almost anything. People experiencing similar things shouldn’t necessarily presume that they have an aggressive brain tumour.
“I have always been aware, since diagnosis, that it is a disease that can be managed, and life prolonged, but it cannot be cured – at least not with the science of today. However, immunotherapy may be the future of cancer treatment.”
James was a former TA soldier and transferred into Plymouth Platoon in 2007 just before The Rifles were formed.
He added: “I took pride in being a professional (part-time) Rifleman, within an exceptional platoon.
“The platoon was honed into shape by Sjt Chris Reed, the best soldier I ever had the good fortune to serve with, and who was sadly killed in Afghanistan, during our tour (Operation Herrick 9).
“I am lucky to have had the opportunity to enjoy my service with The Rifles, and met many great people along the way, many of whom are lifelong friends.
“Contending with cancer is not like serving as a soldier. Personally, I dislike phraseology like ‘fighting’ cancer. Cancer is a disease, not the Taliban.
“Asides from having to overcome a loss of mobility in my left side, which is now thankfully, almost completely rectified, I am physically reasonably fit and well; mentally I obviously am not as agile as I once was, but I am chuffed at having completed the PhD.”
The GoFundMe page is to access new tumour sequencing technologies and immunotherapy treatment opportunities, offered by clinics in Germany.
It has so far raised around £16,500 of their £55,000 target.
James added: “We have been blown away at the amount of positive support that our appeal has achieved. My wife and I have fresh hope that we have more of a future together.”
To donate visit https://gf.me/u/yhfak3