Meet the selfless dad diagnosed with a brain tumour who is helping others with their own struggles
A Sunderland student who underwent brain surgery to partially remove a tumour is now looking to help other people overcome their own adversity.
It was in 2018 that David Ray began to suffer from painful migraines, blurred vision, tinnitus and loss of balance.
After being referred by his GP to the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle that David was diagnosed with “a large left-sided Acoustic Neuroma”, a benign brain tumour.
The dad-of-two was operated on to partially remove the tumour before undergoing radiotherapy at the Freeman Hospital to shrink it further.
David, his wife Sarah-Jane and their two children Jack and Amber, who were aged nine and three at the time, also found themselves homeless and struggling to find a place to live during this difficult time.
It was only after receiving support from a local councillor that the family eventually managed to find a place to call home.
Determined not to be beaten, the trials and tribulations David experienced only served to inspire the former chef to embark on a career to help others experiencing their own challenges.
David, 37, said: “When I returned to better health, I decided I wanted to take-up a caring role in the community. I enrolled on an Access to Health and Social Care course at Sunderland College in October 2018.
"I also volunteered with Hartlepool Borough Council as a peer mentor within substance recovery services, taking time to build relationships with service users, listen to their stories and support them as much as I could with the training I received.
“I started to buy into a new way of life and being in a supportive environment enabled me to grow as a person. I learned so much and I’m forever grateful to the social work staff and service users for the experiences gained.”
After finishing his college course, David decided to enrol on a BA (Hons) Social Work degree at the University of Sunderland. He plans to use his own experience overcoming adversity to help others.
He said: “I decided I wanted to be a social worker. I want to support people and build relationships working in the community. Social work was the best option for me as I feel partnerships between workers and service users helps to empower individuals and families to facilitate change.
“During my degree I was able to work with some wonderful adults and children, building meaningful relationships, utilising my new skills and my life experience.
"I’ve had the privilege of entering peoples’ private lives to support them to overcome difficult circumstances. Positive outcomes is the greatest reward a social worker can obtain.”
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David is now studying at the University of Sunderland for a Masters degree in Inequality and Society and after graduating he hopes to specialise in social work safeguarding children and families.
However, following news his tumour has regrown, David’s own health remains his biggest challenge.
Despite the devastating news, selfless David said: “I hope by sharing my personal experiences of life before university I can inspire others to study at the university and embark on a career in social work”
Cally Bleasby, Senior Lecturer in Social Work, added: “David’s story of overcoming adversity, using his experiences as motivation to give back and pursue a career supporting others is inspiring for everyone that hears it.”