When Albury sporting personality Trent Ball celebrated his 32nd birthday this July, he did so with the knowledge that he had a newly diagnosed brain tumour.
The news came less than a week before his birthday.
But the father of two and Tallangatta Cricket Club coach, who also captains the Border Bullets in Albury, hid his disappointment, suspended his disbelief and focused on finding a solution.
“The first thing I thought was how long – do I have 24 hours to live or 24 years? All you want is that answer – just to find out how bad it is,” he said.
Trent first went to see his local GP after experiencing blurred vision and was given a pair of glasses having undergone standard eye examinations.
But he sought further tests after the glasses failed to improve his blurry vision and he noticed a dramatic change in his sleeping pattern.
“I was then sent to a specialist who ordered an MRI as well as a CAT scan, which found the tumour sitting on my optic nerve and on the pituitary gland,” he said.
Once it was known that Trent had a tumour, he was flown to St Vincent’s for further examination and treatment.
Doctors determined the tumour was Craniopharyngioma, a benign or noncancerous tumour that normally develops at the base of the brain near the pituitary gland. His symptom of blurred vision, they said, was due to pressure on the optic nerve by the tumour.
On 22 August, a team of surgeons led by Neurosurgeon Yi Yuen Wang operated on Trent.
Because of the location of the tumour, Doctor Wang’s team decided the surgery had to be endoscopic, reaching the tumour through Trent’s nostrils.
“They took the entire tumour out and confirmed that it wasn’t cancerous,” he said.
The first thing Trent noticed when he woke up after the surgery was that his vision was back.
“My vision came back in an instant,” he said. “It was almost like magic when I woke up.”
He will have to get MRI scans every six months to ensure the tumour isn’t growing back, and needs ongoing treatment to restore the disruption of hormone production by the pituitary gland.
With the surgery a great success, Trent left St Vincent’s last weekend and is looking forward to returning to playing cricket as a coach and captain in October, pending Dr Wang’s advice.
But as he prepared to leave St Vincent’s, he wanted to give a huge shout-out to the nurses who looked after him on the ward.
“The doctors did an amazing job, but I think it’s the nurses that saved me,” he said.
“Everyone said if my family wasn’t there I wouldn’t have gone through it all. But I reckon if the nurses weren’t here I wouldn’t have gone through it. They were literally here whenever I needed them.”
“But I think when you’re here, you know you are safe. In and out you get a dietitian, physio, OT, doctor, surgeon, nurse, and head of nursing – everyone checks on you. So you feel like if anything does go wrong they will know. The care here is very proactive rather than reactive,” he said.
Trent and his surgeon Dr Wang are now teaming up in the fight against pituitary disorders, and Trent is already doing what he can, from his hospital bed, to raise awareness about the disease.
A message posted on his Facebook Page urges people to get behind Dr Wang’s efforts to raise funds for the Australian Pituitary Foundation by running in this year’s Melbourne Marathon.
“This is my legend surgeon running to make money for Pituitary disorders, which I will have to deal with for the rest of my life,” Trent’s message on his Facebook Page says.
“He is going to dominate the Melbourne Marathon and it would be great if you could just donate $5 or whatever you can afford to help him raise five thousand dollars.”
Trent will meet Dr Wang at the finish line of the Melbourne Marathon on 16 October.