A teacher who was diagnosed with two brain tumours is set to marry her boyfriend of ten years following a romantic New Year’s Day proposal – after the pair were coincidentally in a play together at eight years old.
Beth Titterton, from Staffordshire, believed she first met her now-fiancé Sam at a youth club during a Duke of Edinburgh Award training weekend when the pair were both 18.
But by a sweet coincidence – although they don’t remember – the pair soon discovered they were in a play together at a local theatre, in which Beth was a narrator and Sam played a king.
Two decades after their forgotten first encounter, Beth and Sam, 28, were celebrating their 10-year anniversary with a walk in the forest on New Year’s Day when Sam fell to one knee and asked his girlfriend to marry him.
The proposal followed a six-year ordeal that saw Beth being diagnosed with two brain tumours and even at one point telling Sam to leave her if he couldn’t cope with the impact of her illness.
Beth Titterton, from Staffordshire, believed she first met her now-fiancé Sam (pictured together) at a youth club when the pair were both 18
Beth (front right) and Sam (front left) had appeared in a play together – as a king and a narrator – when they were eight years old
Beth and Sam met when they were 18 at a youth club during a Duke of Edinburgh Award training weekend.
‘Sam was trying to impress me and attempted a big belly slide in the mud – but it was an epic fail!’ said Beth. ‘I laughed and thought he was an absolute idiot but he decided there and then that he wanted me to be his girlfriend.’
‘A few months later, we met properly at a New Year’s Eve party – this time we clicked and I loved his sense of humour.
‘Sam walked me home in the early hours of New Year’s Day and kissed me outside the house. I found out later that my mum and sister Libby had been peeking out of the window at us!’
Two decades after their forgotten first encounter, Beth and Sam were celebrating their 10-year anniversary when Sam fell to one knee and asked his girlfriend to marry him (Pictured: Beth and Sam after their engagement)
Sam’s heart-warming proposal followed the devoted couple’s six-year ordeal of Beth being diagnosed with two brain tumours (Pictured: Beth’s scar after brain surgery)
Seven months after they got together, Beth went to Bangor University to do childhood studies and Sam to Coventry University to study physiotherapy, but they managed to visit each other regularly and their relationship blossomed.
But in April 2014, when Beth was 22, she began to suffer bouts of dizziness which were put down to labyrinthitis, an inner ear disorder.
‘But it just wouldn’t clear up for over a month even with my prescribed drugs, and I was in bed for two weeks,’ said Beth.
‘Eventually, I felt better, but then I started suffering headaches in the morning, which woke me up, and severe head pains when I bent down or lowered my head.’
Pictured: Beth with her sister Libby, 23, father Rob and mother Denise when on holiday
Beth (pictured with Sam) began to suffer bouts of dizziness and headaches which were put down to labyrinthitis, an inner ear disorder, in April 2014
The GP then referred Beth to Stafford Hospital for an MRI scan – where it was revealed she had two brain tumours.
‘When I got home, Mum and Dad were sitting on the settee waiting for me,’ said Beth.
‘Dad looked really serious and told me our GP who we’d been with for years had been round the house to tell them the results of my MRI scan.
‘There was nothing wrong with my ear – I had two brain tumours.
‘I was shocked and Mum rang Sam to break the news as I was struggling to process the news myself, never mind relay it to him.
When the dizziness didn’t clear up with medication, Beth was referred to Stafford Hospital for an MRI scan – where it was revealed she had two brain tumours
A week after her diagnosis, Beth had a five-hour operation to remove the largest tumour near her brain stem (Pictured: Beth and Sam in Dubai)
‘When we told Libby after she got in from school, she burst into tears and then blurted out: “It’s like a storyline from Hollyoaks”.’
A week after her diagnosis, Beth had a five-hour operation to remove the largest tumour near her brain stem.
Beth was soon dealt another devastating blow when biopsy results revealed her tumour was cancerous (Pictured: Beth’s radiotherapy mask)
There was then another devastating blow when biopsy results revealed her tumour was cancerous.
‘But I was determined that I wasn’t going to be defined by my brain cancer and that it wasn’t going to take over my life – it had to fit into my life,’ said Beth.
Beth underwent a robotic radiotherapy treatment called Cyberknife which is more targeted than traditional radiotherapy with fewer side effects. It got rid of rest of the larger tumour and the smaller tumour.
‘By far, the worst part of my treatment was the steroids, which I was put on as soon as I was diagnosed for three months,’ said Beth.
‘I put on two-and-half stone and felt painfully bloated. I hated my moon face and neck fat – when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t recognise myself. I didn’t feel like me anymore.
‘Although Sam reassured me he still found me attractive, it wiped out my confidence. We didn’t have sex for months because I didn’t feel good about myself.
‘I also didn’t want to be touched as it was uncomfortable because I was so bloated with water retention from my steroid treatment.
‘And I had terrible mood swings – poor Sam ended up agreeing with everything I said to keep the peace.
Pictured: Beth and Sam are seen not long after they first met as teenagers at a Duke of Edinburgh training weekend
‘He was an absolute rock and knew when to take the mickey out of me – which we do a lot to each other – and when to listen.’
Beth has even revealed she once told her now-fiancé to leave her if her cancer became ‘too much for him’ to handle.
‘Living with a brain tumour doesn’t just affect my life, it has a huge impact on Sam and my family too,’ said Beth.
The most typical symptoms of brain tumours in children and young people include:
- Persistent or recurring vomiting
- Persistent or recurring headaches
- Balance / co-ordination problems / walking problems
- Blurred or double vision
- Poor balance and co-ordination
- Abnormal eye movements
- Abnormal head position
- Fits or seizures
- Behavioural changes, especially tiredness
- Increasing head circumference in babies
- Delayed puberty in teenagers
Symptoms vary across age group, visit HeadSmart for more information.
‘I told him I understood if he wanted to leave if it was too much for him – but he said he wasn’t going anywhere.’
Despite the support from Sam and her close-knit family, at times Beth felt isolated and fearful – until The Brain Tumour Charity became a lifeline.
‘I tried my best to be positive but, of course, I had my dark days,’ she said.
‘Then I found The Brain Tumour Charity’s Facebook page and asked to join, it helped so much instantly being able to connect with people who were going through what I was experiencing – I wasn’t alone anymore.
‘Libby and I have both had fantastic support from the charity’s young adults service.
‘We became Young Ambassadors to support other young people as I wanted to be there for others as the charity had been there for me.’
By September 2014, Beth was back to teaching. But the next January, a routine scan revealed Beth’s cancer had come back.
‘We knew it would probably come back at some stage, but were shocked at how quickly that happened,’ Beth said. ‘I had more radiotherapy and further sessions after more regrowth in 2016 and 2017.’
Beth (pictured right) and her sister Libby (left) both received support from The Brain Tumour Chairty and became Young Ambassadors to help others
Determined to live her life to the fullest, in February 2016 Beth went on three-month trip to teach in Fiji and travel to New Zealand, Hong Kong and Dubai with Sam
Determined to live her life to the fullest, in February 2016 Beth went on three-month trip to teach in Fiji and travel to New Zealand, Hong Kong and Dubai with Sam.
Though her tumours have grown back three times, Beth has now been stable for four years and has scans every three months.
Brain tumours in children and young people – the facts
- Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and young people.
- Some 600 children and young people are diagnosed each year with a primary brain tumour.
- A quarter of these children and young people will die – that’s one child every three days.
- The cancer is also the largest cause of preventable or treatable blindness in children.
Find out more at the Brain Tumour Charity and Headsmart
‘Scanxiety has become part of our lives, but I’m grateful I’m doing so well and we choose to focus on the positive,’ said Beth, who is supporting The Brain Tumour Charity’s Big Bake to raise money for vital research, which runs throughout Brain Tumour Awareness Month (BTAM) in March.
The couple became engaged at New Year after 10 years together and some hinting from Beth.
‘Over the years, I’d dropped so many hints subtle and not-so-subtle that he should propose, but it felt the right time.
‘We were in Northumberland for the weekend and walking in Kielder Forest with our dog Milo,’ said Beth, who lives apart from Sam during the week due to work but spends weekends with him in their house.
‘I was moaning about how cold and muddy I was and looking behind me to see where Milo was.
‘Then I heard Sam say, “I’ve got a question to ask you.” I turned around and he got down on one knee and said, “Will you marry me?”
‘I couldn’t believe it and blurted out, “Of course I will – about time”.
‘We haven’t set a wedding date yet but it’ll most likely be 2022.
‘I feel blessed that Sam he loves me for who I am – he makes me feel like Beth, a person, a woman, not solely a brain tumour patient – and I’m excited about our future together.’
Sarah Lindsell, The Brain Tumour Charity’s chief executive, said: ‘We are so very grateful to Beth for sharing her story to help raise awareness about brain tumours – the biggest cancer killer of children and under-40s in the UK.
‘Like Beth, many young people feel alone and isolated as they come to terms with their diagnoses and the physical and emotional impact of living with a brain tumour, which is why our support services are so important.
‘Beth is a fantastic advocate for the charity and we send her and Sam our very warmest wishes on their engagement and wish them every happiness for their future.’