Mike Palmer has become one of the strongest advocates for our work at Headway Norfolk & Waveney. He is pictured above with Wendy Thomson, managing Director of Norfolk County Council, who like many others, was inspired to visit us by Mike's enthusiasm for sharing his story and the support that we provide for him and many others.
Fo Mike battling cognitive fatigue has been one of his biggest challenges after being diagnosed with a brain tumour in August 2015. From being an outgoing socialite to struggling to cope with the noise of a busy supermarket, Mike wants to share his story to help educate the general public on how devastating and life-changing the hidden effects of brain injury can be.
Mike started suffering with severe migraine, described as ‘cluster headaches’ in 2011. Over the following years these headaches steadily worsened and in 2015, following an MRI scan he was referred to a neurology specialist at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge. A six inch tumor was discovered in his brain. In November 2015 Mike underwent surgery; ‘I was taken in on the Friday and was back home on the Monday but it wasn’t until around Christmas time that my longer term cognitive issues really started to become apparent’.
Mood swings, relationship problems, anger, frustration and depression are all known side effects of an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI). Other cognitive challenges including poor concentration and a decreased ability to filter out background noise, make adjustment to everyday life after a brain injury extremely hard. In March 2016 Mike’s GP referred him to the specialist neurological rehabilitation unit based at the Coleman hospital in Norwich. The hospital has close links with Headway Norfolk and Waveney who offer a number of programmes personally tailored to the needs of each individual. ‘The staff at both the Coleman hospital and Headway Norfolk & Waveney have helped me to better understand my brain injury and to live with it, their specialist support is a vital part of my recovery.’ Says Mike.
Physically Mike struggles with numbness down the left-hand side of his body. However it is the more hidden effects of his brain tumour that have had the biggest impact on his life. An active rugby player and coach Mike had always been very used to being a big, fit and active guy. ‘Fatigue after brain injury has been a massive issue for me, particularly as I can become tired after completing basic everyday routines that I used to complete with ease.’ Mike is currently taking part in a fatigue management class run by Headway Norfolk and Waveney. ‘I am gaining a better understanding as to how I now need to live my life, says Mike. I am very aware now of the big difference between physical fatigue and cognitive fatigue. I’m starting to recognise the signs of the cognitive fatigue and am learning to live in my new body, but it is incredibly frustrating.’
Mike is very aware that he is on a journey and is anxious about where it might take him. ‘The future scares me, I feel lost because everything that once defined me is now gone. There are two different guys; pre-operation Mike and post-operation Mike and sometimes I feel as though I'm stuck in between the two.’ Being a part of the community at Headway Norfolk & Waveney, alongside many others who are also coming to terms with the personal impact of an ABI is important to Mike. ‘Whilst it makes my own journey no less frustrating, it is great to be around others with whom I have a shared experienced. Listening to their stories is helpful. Headway Norfolk & Waveney are helping me to make sense of what has happened and where I am. Whilst I don’t know where I’m going I do know that I am moving in a positive direction.’