A HOSPITAL porter who had been fighting a rare form of brain tumour has died after a fall.
Joel Sanders is thought to have suffered a fatal brain haemorrhage in the fall at the Bristol Haematology and Oncology Centre.
The mother of Barnstaple born and bred Joel, 25, and his girlfriend, Charlie Kershaw, 24, said he had completed his treatment for a brain tumour on August 30.
But later the same day he fell and was rushed to Frenchay Hospital where he died.
Debbie Sanders, 50, said Joel, who worked at North Devon District Hospital, had became aware of his illness in January.
She said: "Joel developed headaches and nausea and I suggested he come to stay with me in Suffolk for a while."
But while travelling through London Joel became lost at Liverpool Street Station.
"He could see the signs but couldn't make sense of them," said Debbie.
For a well-travelled young man like Joel to get lost in such a way would prove to be a clear indicator something was wrong.
Having been helped on his way to Debbie's house by the family of one of her colleagues, Joel headed to hospital, where a scan revealed a mass on the left side of his head.
Debbie said: "We were then blue-lighted to Queen's in Romford where Joel was put on steroids to try and reduce the inflammation around the tumour."
Joel, who went to Ashleigh Primary School, The Park Community School and North Devon College, then underwent four and a half hours of brain surgery, while fully conscious.
In a sign of the bravery and sense of humour with which Joel would face his fight against his disease he then came out of surgery and said to Debbie: "I think they said I can go home tomorrow."
"I told him I didn't think that was likely," said Debbie, "but it was only two days after that he was discharged."
Joel then went home and after seeing a neuro-oncologist at Exeter he was referred to Bristol for treatment on his supratentorial PNET tumour, a rare tumour normally found in children.
After months of treatment, which included radiotherapy, chemotherapy and stem cell therapy, Joel was waiting to have scans to see if the treatment had been successful when he had the accident which ultimately led to his death.
Because Joel's platelet count had been reduced to just nine by the radiotherapy (it should normally be between 150 and 450) he was unable to properly fight the brain haemorrhage and never recovered from the fall.
Debbie said the nine months Joel suffered with his brain tumour was a bittersweet journey.
"I'd only just said to him, 'if you can get through the next ten days you'll have turned the corner'."
She said Joel had never complained about his condition.
"He was extremely laid back and took everything in his stride. I never once heard him say, 'why me?'.
"Maybe that's why he was chosen for this journey, if God thought he could cope with it."
And at his side throughout that journey has been Charlie.
Having met Joel in Toko nightclub in May 2011 she gave up her course in primary education at the University of the West of England when Joel was diagnosed with the tumour and moved in with him.
Debbie said: "If you believe in angels Charlie has been Joel's."
"And now he's mine," said Charlie.
"It's so surreal not having him around. I'm on autopilot really. He was my life."
And Charlie said she was just glad she could spend time with Joel while he was still around.
"People asked me if I ever thought of walking away," she said. "But it was never an option that crossed my mind. It's Joel. He's the love of my life. I wanted to be there every step of the way.
"If I could go back and change anything I wouldn't."
A celebration of Joel's life will take place at St Mary's Church, Pilton tomorrow at 11.30am.
Debbie and Charlie ask that no black is worn and there are no flowers. Anyone wishing to make a donation should do so to CLIC Sargent, a charity which provided a huge helping hand to Joel and Charlie.