Martin Heaney was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in November last year after he banged his head and, on the advice of friends, who were concerned about small changes in his behaviour, decided to go to A&E.
He said: “I thought I might just have been a bit concussed so I went to St Thomas’ Hospital in Central London and, like a bolt out of the blue, that’s how I discovered I had a brain tumour.
“It all came as a complete shock and it was pretty overwhelming to have to take in so much information in such a short space of time.”
The 61-year-old, who lectures on ‘drama, applied theatre and performance’ at the University of East London, underwent brain surgery a few weeks later followed by radiotherapy and is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
He suffers from seizures, fatigue and a focal impairment which reduces his left-hand field of vision but considers himself ‘very fortunate and blessed’ because his impairment is ‘very minimal compared to others’.
He is now navigating his new journey through life with the help of a podcast series called Chatty Guy Talks Cancer Care and Hopein which he explores what it is like to live with brain cancer.
He plans to share conversations, writing and creative ideas from people working in spaces of education, social justice and faith.
Martin said: “I’m a person of faith, a liberal Catholic, and, although as a gay man that’s not always an easy thing to be, I find that it helps to keep me centred.
“It’s one of the subjects I discuss in my new podcast series. It’s a bit quirky but I decided I was just going to put myself out there and not be apologetic and it’s been well received by my friends and colleagues.”
In the first episode, Learning to Live with Cancer, Catholicism and a Gay Dog, Martin celebrates some of the inspirational people he has met and his positive experience of the NHS. He also explores ways of telling friends and family about having a life-limiting illness.
He said: “Yes, I have to rethink my life but I’m interested in the wider conversation around dealing with a life-constraining illness and the positives that can be found in that and making positive life choices.”
In his second episode, Cancer Care and Conversation, he talks to a friend, a journalist who has worked as a healthcare editor for The Times newspaper, about the wider impact of getting cancer.
He added: “I’m investigating what that means for me now as I try to go back to work whilst living the best life that I can.
“I’m feeling more creative than I have in years and am excited about what will come next, which I will continue to share through my podcasts.”
Martin is also keen to become an advocate in debates and research within the brain tumour community and is working with the charity Brain Tumour Research to share his story.