Best friends reunited after decade apart after deadly brain tumour diagnosis
Best friends who spent a decade apart have finally been reunited – after one was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Joanna Meadows, 21, from Gloucester, lost contact with school friend, Neil Vines, 22, over ten years ago.
But when she heard her childhood friend had been diagnosed with a brain tumour she contacted him immediately.
The 21-year-old has been at Neil’s side ever since – and has even shaved her head in support of him.
After reuniting, Joanna and Neil have become life-long best friends.
Neil, a professional personal trainer, has battled two brain tumours, one affecting his eye sight – as well as spinal cancer which left him unable to walk.
But thanks to rounds of chemotherapy and numerous operations, the pair are looking forward to the future following his cancer free results.
Joanna said: “Me and Neil first met each other at play group and even though we grew apart after school, I was devastated when I heard he had been diagnosed with a brain tumour.
“I first got in touch with Neil over Facebook and I arranged to catch up with him at his house.
“From there we exchanged numbers and arranged cinema and coffee outings, it was nice being able to go out, spend time together and build a strong bond between the both of us.
“He was a healthy personal trainer, working out in Crete living life to the full so it was a sudden huge shock for him, his family and everyone who knew him.
“Neil’s appearance had changed dramatically within a short space of time but he has always remained positive and brave.
“Over the past two and a half years Neil’s cancer diagnosis has brought us closer than ever, we are best friends now.
“I speak to him on a daily basis and I always try to pop round to his house to see him when I can.
“Neil has just beaten his second tumour that was close to the front of his brain, he is currently free of the tumour and we are all so happy for him as he deserved this recent news.”
Neil was first diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour that had spread to his spine in 2012 after suffering severe headaches and neck pains.
He was working abroad at the time but once returned to the UK he underwent tests that led to his diagnosis.
Joanna added: “After operations, intense chemotherapy and radiotherapy Neil was then left unable to walk, however once his treatment had finished he was overly determined to get back on his feet.
“Just when we all thought his battle was finally over, a routine scan revealed that he had a second tumour near the front of his brain.
“Neil needed further treatment and was put on a high dose of steroids to reduce the swelling on his brain.
“Myself and neils supportive family and friends felt helpless as we watched him go through his traumatic battle but everyone has been fantastic in being there every step of the way”
“His one eyelid is stitched together and his whole body has swelled up due to the steroid treatment. He has suffered all sorts of side affects.
“He isn’t scared anymore, he is always fighting back whatever life throws at him and has never asked ‘why me?’
“Neil is my inspiration and he has changed my whole outlook on life.”
Joanna, who is a hairdresser, decided to shave her hair off to help raise funds for the charity that has helped Neil throughout his ordeal, The Teenage Cancer Trust.
She added: “My hair means alot to me but after everything Neil has been through it was something I was adamant I wanted to do.
“I thought about doing a charity walk but I needed to do something that would really catch people’s attention.
“Neil had no choice about losing his hair so I thought I would shave mine too and prove a point that it doesn’t matter what you look like it’s the person you are inside that matters”
“So far I have raised just over £1250 in total for the trust but I want to keep going, Neil is so proud of the funds I have achieved so far. ”
Joanna and Neil are looking forward to 2015 and seeing his health continue to improve.
Neil hopes to get back to walking and running as soon as possible.
She added: “Neil is having help to regain his strength and balance to walk again at the moment and we have decided to do a 5k run together, I have every faith in him that he can do it.
“I just pray and hope for a miracle that this is the end of Neil’s cancer journey, I’ll always be at Neil’s side, we are best friends now.
“He gives me just as much support as I give back. I really do love him, words can’t describe what an amazing young man he is and I’m so glad to have him in my life.”
Neil has written a book documenting his journey called Powerful Beyond Measure. It goes on sale next month.
He added: “Joanna’s friendship has supported me throughout my cancer journey, her texts, calls and visits have helped get me through some really tough times.
“I’m looking forward to my book going on sale.”