Brave father has entire face taken off to remove brain tumour – and is now looking forward to his wedding
16:25 GMT, 23 May 2012
A father who was told twice he was going to die from a brain tumour was saved when doctors pulled the skin down from his face to remove the growth – and is now looking forward to getting married.
Tommy Kirkland, 42, had the skin at the top of his face cut, peeled down to his chin and then had a quarter of his skull removed so doctors could reach the deadly lump.
Amazingly it was his third operation out of four in which doctors had to remove a brain tumour.
Fighter: Tommy Kirkland, 42, pictured with his son Leo, has had four brain tumours removed in five years
Mr Kirkland, who suffers from a mystery condition that causes tumours to develop in his body, has totted up a total of 38 hours on the operating table over the past five years.
The father-of-one said he has now healed and is looking forward to marrying his fiance Gillian Williams, 32, next month.
Scar: During his third operation Mr Kirkland had the skin pulled back from his face and had part of his skull removed, creating this scar
Mr Kirkland, who lives in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, said: 'I feel great. Doctors thought I was beyond help a couple of times but I'm still here.
'I wake up every morning happy and the fact that I am getting married soon is the icing on the cake.
'The operation where I had my face removed was a big one. There were seven specialists – one for my eyes, one to monitor my breathing and five to carry out the operation.
'It was a big shock but I had a lot of support and I am looking forward to living my life.'
Mr Kirkland, a retail manager, was fit and healthy until out of the blue he began to suffer headaches and sickness in the summer of 2006.
He went for an MRI scan and doctors told him he had a tumour the size of a baseball in the left side of his brain and he should say goodbye to his family before having an operation to remove it.
The scars from Mr Kirkland's operations are not immediately apparent, but can be seen in profile
Mr Kirkland went under the knife that October and 14 hours later woke up to find surgery had been a complete success. He started on chemotherapy and thought his troubles were behind him.
But in May 2007 Mr Kirkland began to feel ill again and following an MRI scan was diagnosed with a second brain tumour, which was again removed.
Then in 2009 doctors found yet another tumour and told Mr Kirkland that his chances of survival were slim because the growth was so deep inside his brain.
He underwent a marathon 12-hour operation at Southern General Hospital in Glasgow in March that year. His entire face was removed along with the front part of his skull so doctors could remove the lump, again in the left side of his brain.
He was stitched back up and continued radiotherapy to stop further tumours developing.
Mr Kirkland, who still bears the scars of that operation, added: 'They told me that was me. So when they said they were going to operate I was incredibly nervous.'
Mr Kirkland in hospital after his fourth operation in August 2011. He continue to maintain a positive attitude
Mr Kirkland is due to marry his fiance Gillian Williams next month
After the third operation he carried on his life with radiotherapy treatment at the Beatson Clinic in Glasgow. Then July last year he began to suffer sudden seizures.
Doctors found a fourth brain tumour and Mr Kirkland was rushed back into surgery for a six-hour operation in August.
He initially suffered bouts of sickness and contracted meningitis and septicaemia but the plucky Scot pulled through and celebrated his recovery by completing a 56-mile walk around the Isle of Arran on Saturday to raise money for charity.
Mr Kirkland, who has a five-year-old son, Leo, is also expecting his second child in October this year.
Recovery: Mr Kirkland after his first operation in 2006 (left) and after his fourth operation in 2011 (right)
The brave dad, who attends support group Brain Tumour UK, added: 'The best way to beat the tumours is to keep fit, keep a great attitude and enjoy life.
'Thanks to Brain Tumour UK I regained my confidence and found a new way of dealing with my illness.
'The doctors don't know what has caused my tumours. I played a lot of rugby when I was younger so that could be behind it but also my grandmother suffered from the same condition so it could be hereditary.
'I am trying to get on with my life and I want to spread the message that a brain tumour is not necessarily a death sentence. And in my case, neither is four.'
Brain Tumour UK group organiser Gus Ironside said: 'People affected by brain tumours can feel very isolated, so having a place to go for mutual support and to share their experiences of living with the effects of a brain tumour can be a lifeline.'