Bath dad's 'six-year headache' turns out to be brain cancer

After experiencing blurry and double vision, Westley Blakeway was eventually told by Specsavers that he had had a mini-stroke behind his left eye.
After experiencing blurry and double vision, Westley Blakeway was eventually diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer Credit: BPM Media

Father-of-three who spent six years living with a headache has been diagnosed with an incurable brain tumour.

30-year-old Westley Blakeway, from Paulton near Bath, was repeatedly misdiagnosed with sinusitis after suffering from headaches and blurry vision.

His headaches became a fact of life. He always carried paracetamol with him - and if he had just one alcoholic drink, he would feel nauseous and the pain would increase.

One day, Blakeway got into his van to go to work and realised he could not see properly.

"Everything had gone blurry and I had double vision," he said. "It was the pressure from the tumour on the eyeball.

"I was really freaking out, but I managed to get home and told my wife there was something really wrong and that I could not see."

When he went for an eye test, he was told it looked like he'd had a mini stroke behind his left eye.

But the pain got worse that evening and so he went to hospital where he was later diagnosed with a brain tumour.

"I had a massive headache as well," said Westley when he was admitted to hospital.

His wife Elize Blakeway said: "They said 'there is something' so we were worrying it was a tumour."They sent it for testing and about a week later we got the results."

The tests confirmed he had grade 4 glioma which is a very aggressive form of cancer. He had been living with it unknowingly for up to six years, as it had been growing very slowly.

As a father of three young children - aged nine, eight and eight months - he said his first thoughts upon receiving the diagnosis were with his family.

"When I first found out, it was a massive shock for me," he said. "It felt like I was in a movie, it felt unreal.

"I could not cry at first, I was just worried about my Mrs and my kids. She started crying and I was just sat there, not knowing what to think and then the worries started flooding in," he said.

Blakeway and his wife have not yet told their children about the severity of the brain tumour.

"We have not the kids yet, they know I am sick, but I do not know what to tell them - I do not know how they are going to react," he said.

Blakeway is from South Africa but moved his family to Knowle in South Bristol in 2018 and then over to Paulton.

Shortly after the initial diagnosis, Blakeway spent nine hours in surgery, during which time doctors removed about 80 per cent of the tumour, which he was told was the size of a golf ball.

In order to do this, they had to open his skull from one ear to the other, requiring 42 staples afterwards.

He has since been recovering well, although he does experience breathlessness, short term memory loss and is at risk of seizures which prevents him from driving.

He also says he can feel his skull move due to the healing process.

This month, he will be starting six weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy at the Bristol Royal Infirmary's Oncology Centre.

Blakeway's cancer is incurable, so the treatment he receives will attempt to slow the growth of the tumour.

Aside from the physical symptoms, Blakeway said the ordeal has taken a toll on his mental health. He is suffering with anxiety and struggles to sleep.

"I have beautiful kids and a family that are really supportive, but it is still worrying", he said.

"For me, sitting here is hard - I want to provide for my family. I can't help but feel I am letting my family down," he added.

As he cannot work, the family are currently living off grants as well as receiving support from their family. A GoFundMe page has now been set up to support them.

While Blakeway said he worries "the future feels very uncertain at the moment," he has spoken to some people with the same type of tumour who have lived for 10 years.

"I need to believe and be positive," he said.

"If I get the right support and I am positive and strong, I believe I can live 60 more years."