Zoe Taylor had her first epileptic seizure in May 2013. It was the most frightening and painful experience of her life. 'I've had two children without pain relief and that was a breeze by comparison,' says Zoe, 33. 'It was a pain you can't imagine. It started in my tongue and I felt impelled to open my jaws as wide as possible. 'I expelled all the air from my lungs and then I couldn't breathe in.'
As well as feeling as if she was suffocating, her body was jerking uncontrollably, then she fell unconscious. After that, she had similar seizures every six weeks or so and smaller ones up to ten times a day. 'My jaw would go fuzzy and numb. Afterwards, I'd feel tired and get emotional about the smallest thing.' In July, the cause was revealed - a slow-growing brain tumour.
'I was told it might stay in the same state for years, but they wouldn't operate because its location meant I might suffer brain damage,' says Zoe, who lives with her husband Lee, 35, a hairdresser, and their children, Milo, four, and Isabella, seven, in Totnes, Devon.Unfortunately, leaving the tumour in place meant it could become aggressive.
'I was told radiotherapy might prolong my life by several years, but only half of patients who develop the aggressive type of tumour are alive a year later.' Conventional treatment for brain cancer involves surgery, if possible, and chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, as well as epilepsy drugs for the seizures - these occur because the tumour presses on surrounding brain cells. Zoe is taking epilepsy drugs, but she believes their effect has been boosted dramatically by following a diet approved to treat children with epilepsy.
Known as the ketogenic diet, it is being used experimentally to help a few adult brain cancer patients control their seizures. It's thought it might even help tackle cancer