My name is Lisa Connell. I was born in North London (Camden Town) on 11 April 1979, and I have a (Meningioma) brain tumour.
I was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in August 2006 after suffering with my balance and vision having gone through a four month pregnancy. I was sent by my optician to Moorfield’s Eye Hospital where I was given an MRI scan a few weeks later.
The scan showed that I had a benign meningioma growing in the centre of my brain.
Due to its location I was told that tumour was in-operable and they were unsure that any treatment would be able to safely remove it. I was also told they did not know how long I would have to live. It could be years, it could be months.
(A meningioma is a tumour that grows from the meninges (dural covering of the brain). These can occur in many different brain locations and can cause all sorts of symptoms depending on the size of the tumour and its location. Most meningiomas are benign tumours (non-cancerous) although some can be more aggressive and malignant (cancerous). Surgical resection can be curable for some patients while others may be best treated with irradiation approaches. In some patients both open surgery and radiation may be required and in others there are no treatments or operations that will cure it (this is normally determined by its location.)
Following my diagnosis I then had several more opinions from top surgeons all around the country, all of which came up with the same conclusion. I was also advised never to get pregnant, due to the progesterone levels increasing the size of my tumour. Therefore, the reality of ever becoming a month was taken from me.
During the months of February to December 2006, I gradually deteriorated. My walking became impaired; I was unable to move from my home without supervision, I was experiencing double vision and decreased depth perception which resulted in frequent falls and injuries. I also suffered with server head aches due to the pressure being generated on my brain. My level of energy was somewhat low giving symptoms of fatigue, my memory also suffered.
I was told that I may never walk properly again, or recover. The National Health’s advice to me was to relax, take it easy and to avoid stress! I found this advice completely unhelpful and difficult to take in. It left me feeling even worse! At the time, there were no support groups or other individuals with brain tumours I could talk to.
In October 2006 I was introduced to a friend of my father Tony Blake. Tony changed my life for the better. It was Tony who made me analyse my circumstances and actually get up and do something about it.
Tony was diagnosed 10 years prior with having a benign meningioma and also suffered from the same symptoms. Like me, Tony is a very strong and determined character and through exercise and healthy eating he manages the symptoms of his brain tumour and is now leading a normal life.
Tony’s advice to me was not to sit back and let the tumour take over as the National Health advised. In fact it was to do the total opposite, eat well and get fit. Seeing Tony that day lifted my spirit greatly. He appeared to live a normal life even though he still lives with a brain tumour.
With this advice my father gave me a membership to a gym. I attended the gym five times a week working very closely with one of the fitness instructors, Andreas Kyriakou. Andreas donated his time to me to help me on the path to recovery. We worked together on balance exercises along with co-ordination skills and muscle strengthening. Within one month I was back on my feet again!
Having spent all this time in my gym I started training for a 10k run. In July 2007 I ran in the Great British 10k London Run and passed the finish line in 1 hour 15 minutes raising just over £3,000.00 for the charity. Considering I was told I would never walk properly again this had to be one of my biggest achievements, that was down to two men; Tony Blake & Andreas Kyriakou, I cannot thank either of you enough, so thank you!
Since the race I have been making it my personal goal to create awareness of brain cancer. I had been working very closely with many brain cancer charities/causes in helping to raise both awareness and funds for the cause. I will continue to help raise awareness and funds for brain tumour causes for as long as I shall live.
That is where Rent A Date For Charity came in. I had an idea which stemmed from my MySpace account: I put myself and my cousin Luke on the site and offered people a chance to win a date with us. The rules stated that the person who donated the most amount of money onto JustGiving within that week won the date.
The idea soon became common knowledge with a little push from my end. Hence the launch of my first initiative RentADateForCharity.com.
The site was a unique initiative designed specifically to put the Fun back into FUNdraising!
Although we are not a charity Rent A Date For Charity works with other organisations with a sole objective to support other charitable causes whilst offering Celebrity Meet & Greet Auctions which in turn helps boost the awareness and funds for all the brain tumour charities and individual causes we support.. Our aim is to encourage children and young adults with serious or life threatening illnesses to raise the awareness of their condition through various campaigns and activities Lisa Connell Initiatives and to work together creating an all round fundraising community.
With an ongoing interest in beauty, Lisa Connell created B Inspired Hair & Beauty (Brain Tumour Inspired). Lisa Connell was given the opportunity to train with one of the world’s leading permanent cosmetic make-up artists, Nilam Patel, in conjunction with the Nouveau Beauty Group, the leaders in the beauty and permanent cosmetics industry, along side Hair Solved a company dedicated to provide solutions for female hair loss, one that can change's women's life's forever whom trained Lisa Connell in their superior techniques to applying Hair Extensions.
Since training in Beauty, Lisa has also qualified as a Hairdresser.
Lisa Connell's work has been widely showcased in the press and on television, along with her own inspirational story of a young woman fighting the terminal illness (Brain Tumour). Through her distinctive initiatives, Lisa Connell offers treatments to those affected by this disease by donating FREE Hair & Beauty Treatments to those she come's into contact with going through similar circumstances. Lisa see's it as an opportunity to meet other individuals suffering with the same condition, providing an all round pamper treat as well as time to talk to one another with lunch provided at her private establishment in Barnet.
Since the launch of Rent A Date For Charity, Lisa had to take some time out. It became apparent that Lisa's tumour had been growing. In order for something to be done Lisa underwent de-bulking surgery in 2012 to allow for further radiotherapy (Tomotherapy) in 2013. Unfortunately, the neurosurgeons were only able to remove 5% of her tumour as further removal would have caused Lisa serious damage. Lisa suffered a stoke during surgery which didn’t help with her recovery.
Lisa’s deepest wish to have children with a loving man who would stand by her was crushed by medical advice back in 2006, warning her never to fall pregnant due to the risk of progesterone and pregnancy hormones causing further growth in what was already a very large inoperable tumour, and the fact she'd received two lots of radiotherapy meant there was no chance she would produce any eggs.
Last year (2015) Lisa discovered she was pregnant, after plans had been made for her to be sterilised. The due date made the conception date whilst Lisa was still on the contraceptive coil.
Lisa attended an emergency appointment with her radiologist and neurosurgeon within days. Lisa was adamant that although their advise was to terminate the pregnancy, she would continue until the 3rd month (end of her first trimester) until she had signs that there was growth or a planned MRI scan showed it.
After her first trimester, and having had her first baby scan, the MRI revealed that the tumour was stable and had not been affected by the pregnancy. Lisa received the joyous news that she would be able to carry the baby to full term with and that from the results there should be no complications anticipated.
Baby Ruby is to be delivered by C-section with Lisa under general anaesthetic on 11 April 2016, the day of Lisa's birthday. Ruby's name has already been chosen, named in memory of three year old brain tumour sufferer Ruby Owen for whom Lisa raised funds to receive treatment in the USA, but sadly passed away in 2013.
In summary, over the last 10 years, Lisa has battled a whole range of debilitating symptoms in her determination to live life to the full and help other brain tumour sufferers, raising over £50K in the first five years. She founded Rent A Date For Charity which auctions Celebrity Meet and Greet experiences in aid of brain tumour causes, and went on to qualify as an HD Brow Technician, Hairdresser and Beauty trained personally by sponsors Nilam Patel and the Nouveau Beauty Group, through which she donates FREE Hair & Beauty Pamper Treatments to other brain tumour victims. Lisa underwent three brain tumour surgeries within the space of two months in 2012 to reduce the size of the tumour and is now setting up ’B Inspired Brain Tumour Support Group in North London / Hertfordshire’ Area.
Lisa was also nominated in the 2012 Inspiration Awards for Women and was a regional winner in last year's Halifax Giving Extra Awards. Lisa was finally introduced to her elusive Mr Right and dad to Ruby on a blind date who, to their mutual delight, turned out to be an admirer, supporter and one of her social media followers – and is a fellow hairdresser into the bargain!