Dad dies on Christmas Eve months after numb hand turned out to be brain tumour
A loving dad-of-four who was diagnosed with a brain tumour after complaining of numbness in his hand died just three months later on Christmas Eve, his heartbroken wife has revealed.
Jamie Hellens, 48, was ‘absolutely fit and healthy’ when he started experiencing the symptom back in September. A painter and decorator by trade, he initially put the numbness down to carpal tunnel syndrome.
But he went to the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital in Cramlington, Northumberland, when he was unable to grip his paintbrush at work one day. Mr Hellens and his wife Lisa were then given the horrific news that he had a grade five brain tumour – the most aggressive kind.
After undergoing surgery to remove most of it, the family expected to have up to another two years together and looked forward to making ‘the best Christmas ever’. But Mr Hellens’ condition rapidly deteriorated this month and he tragically passed away at home on December 23.
The news has left his wife, children and grandchildren devastated.
Lisa, who had been with Mr Hellens for 21 years and married to him for 13, said her husband’s left hand started going numb at the beginning of September.
She said of the subsequent diagnosis: ‘It was grade five – the worst, most aggressive tumour you can get.
‘They said they’d removed what they could, but it was still going to be growing.
‘They would try radiotherapy and chemotherapy to keep it at bay for as long as possible.’
Mr Hellens underwent radiotherapy treatment, which led to him losing his sight and being unable to eat. He lost the full use off his left side, and became a full-time wheelchair user.
Lisa said: ‘Then he picked up and we had a few weeks of him laughing and joking.’
The family were able to enjoy some special time together but sadly Mr Hellens started to deteriorate again.
Lisa went on: ‘Jamie and I didn’t want to know how long he had, we just took it one day at a time.
‘But one day the doctor took me into the kitchen and said: “I’m really sorry but I think you’ve only got days left with Jamie”.
‘I was devastated. In my head I thought he was going to get over the water infection he had and pick up, like he’d done before.
‘I thought we might have a year, even two years left.
‘On Christmas Eve I was lying in bed with him and the snow was falling, and I was saying: “It’s going to be fine, get yourself away”.
‘By about 3.15pm, that’s when he passed away.
‘From September to Christmas Eve, it’s happened that quickly and it started with his hand being numb. It still hasn’t sunk in properly for me.
‘At the beginning of December, Jamie was saying we needed to have the best Christmas ever. We really thought he was going to be here for Christmas.
‘He loved Christmas, his favourite thing was cooking the Christmas dinner.
‘Our birthdays are in December, we met in December, and it was a lovely month for us until this.’
In a touching tribute to her husband, Lisa said: ‘Anybody who met Jamie never forgot him, he was such a character.
‘He always had a story to tell – if you were in a room at a party, everybody would be listening to Jamie. He was the funniest person you ever met.
‘He loved life, his glass was always half full. He saw the best in everything.
‘Even when he was really poorly, when he couldn’t eat, when he couldn’t see – he never moaned once.
‘He said he was alright to try and make things easier for me, even though he was going through absolute hell.’
Mr Hellens grew up in High Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne, but moved to North Shields after meeting his wife-to-be.
The couple have two children together; son Connor, 20, and 17-year-old daughter Jazmin.
Mr Hellens also has two children from a previous marriage – son Jordon, 28, and daughter Shannon, 26 – as well as three grandchildren, with a fourth due next year.
His family have shared his story in the hope that people with similar symptoms will seek medical advice as soon as possible.
Lisa said: ‘Nobody would think: “I’ve got a numb hand, I might have a brain tumour”.
‘The cancer Jamie had, he could never be saved, but for someone else with a lower grade tumour, it could save their life if they go to a doctor.
‘If they have any symptoms they’re not sure about, go and get them sorted – it doesn’t matter how silly you think something is.’
Mr Hellens’s friends have also set up an online fundraising page to support his family in the aftermath of his death.
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