A dad has urged others to make the most of extra time with family – after being diagnosed with a brain tumour just before the lockdown began.
Sam Suriakumar, 33, was travelling on the London Underground in early February when he suffered a grand mal seizure, and was taken to hospital by a kind stranger.
He underwent a number of tests and was diagnosed with a glioma – and he is now awaiting further information about whether he will need a biopsy, and possibly chemotherapy.
But Sam, from Worcester Park, Surrey, says he feels like he has been given a “gift” in the form of the coronavirus lockdown, meaning he can spend more time with his daughters Avaana, five, and Anya, three.
Sam, a self-employed recruitment consultant and part-time musician, is currently home-schooling his two young girls, while his wife, Sindhu, continues her work as an NHS GP.
And he said: “When I was first told I had a brain tumour my biggest fear was that I would not get to spend time with my wife and our two precious daughters – they are my whole world.
“Now, during the lockdown, I have all the time in the world and I feel this is a gift and I am doing my utmost to make the best of it.
“I am being a full-time dad, teaching the girls their lessons and baking banana bread.”
Now Sam is working with the charity Brain Tumour Research, to share his story.
He hopes to raise awareness of the disease, which is the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under the age of 40.
Sam, a Sri Lankan Tamil, says his diagnosis has brought him closer to his family and to God, and has helped him to identify the things in life which are most important to him.
He hopes the current restrictions to our lives will help other people find a similar focus.
Writing on his JustGiving page – set up to raise money for Brain Tumour Research – he said: “In some ways I feel as if had a head-start on the lockdown.
“I know that many people are saying that their lives changed enormously almost overnight, and that’s how it was for us as soon as I was diagnosed in early February.
“It was very difficult and I was all over the place.
“When I first heard the words ‘brain tumour’ it felt like life had stopped and I was in a dark tunnel with no light.
“I couldn’t speak, hear or understand what was going on. To be honest, I am still trying to digest it and, as terrifying as things are, it will not defeat me.
“But now I feel as if the darkness was there because I had shut my eyes in an attempt to make things go away.
“When I was able to open my eyes, I saw so much more light and love that I wasn’t able to appreciate before.
“Life looks more beautiful already. I am now living my best life and suddenly menial things are just irrelevant.
“My fight has begun and I am ready, every second of every day. Make no mistake, with God by my side, I feel as if I have already won.”
He added: “We can’t thank people enough for showering us with so much love, support and prayers.
“The difference which can be made by showing kindness, giving people your time and telling them you care is enormous.
“I don’t want to lecture or preach but I do hope I can inspire people to love the moment and make it count.
“Tomorrow is always a gift and not a guarantee, whilst today is yours to own and control.”
Sam does not yet know what impact the coronavirus might have on any future treatment.
On his fundraising page, he writes: “My brain tumour is a glioma which is growing like a cobweb.
“This means it is difficult to remove with surgery without causing damage to the areas of my brain which control speech, memory, emotions and mobility.
“I have been told that if I do have an operation it would only be possible to remove 40% of the mass.
“There are a lot of questions still to be answered about what will happen to me and I am awaiting a scan in May.”
He has thanked his friends and family for showering them with “love, support and prayers” and the tremendous response to his JustGiving page, which has raised nearly £8,000 for Brain Tumour Research in just over a month.
Hugh Adams, spokesman for the charity, said: “Sam’s story is very inspiring and I am sure people will be bowled over by his positivity and wish to help others.
“Sadly, he is not alone as some 16,000 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour every year.
“Despite the fact they kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, historically, just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.”
To make a donation, visit: https://www.braintumourresearch.org/stories/in-hope/in-hope-stories/sam-suriakumar.