A mother who had attributed her headache and fatigue to & # 39; baby brains & # 39; was shocked when she discovered that she actually had an incurable brain tumor.
Claire Curtis, 30, from Plymouth, Devon, assumed that her symptoms were due to the stress of becoming a mother for the second time in February 2018.
Doctors suggested her migraine medication, but when Curtis started vomiting early in the morning, she knew it was a bit sinister.
An MRI scan showed that Curtis had a brain tumor the size of an orange six months after she first had a headache.
Three days after surgery to remove the masses, she received the devastating news that the tumor was in fact cancer and was likely to return.
Ms. Curtis has been told that she may not live longer than three years and is now receiving chemotherapy to buy & # 39; more time & # 39; with her children and fiancee, Tom Sutherland, 34.
Claire Curtis, 30, who attributed her headache and fatigue to & # 39; baby brains & # 39 ;, was shocked when she discovered that she actually had an incurable brain tumor. She is pictured with her two children, Charlie (left) and Millie (right)
After surgery to remove the tumor, Curtis received the devastating news that the tumor was in fact cancer and would probably return. She is now receiving chemotherapy that makes her hair fall out (photo and the scar from her surgery)
Mrs. Curtis is now receiving chemotherapy to buy & # 39; more time & # 39;
Mrs. Curtis said: “I had a bad headache in the front part of my head, but I said I was exhausted like a new mother.
# I just felt completely empty and thought it was because I had just given birth to Charlie, so I took myself for naps whenever I could and tried to continue.
& # 39; Doctors first thought it was migraine and gave me co-codamol, but it didn't seem to work and then I started waking up in the early hours to be sick.
& # 39; I repeatedly went back to the doctors who begged for help because I knew something was wrong, but nothing prepared me for the diagnosis of cancer.
& # 39; Although I know my diagnosis is terminal, I fight for every extra minute I can get with my children. & # 39;
Tree nursery Mrs. Curtis and her partner, a crazy golf manager, welcomed daughter Millie in 2015 and their son Charlie followed last year.
Mrs. Curtis blamed the headache she started getting in April 2018 because she was tired of having two young children.
She tried to ignore the pain, take naps if she could, before finally going to a doctor who prescribed co-codamol.
The pain relief did not work and when Mrs. Curtis started vomiting in the early hours of the morning, she returned to the doctors who gave her tablets against nausea.
After she made an effort to climb the stairs in June 2018, Curtis was desperate for answers and went to the optician for an eye test.
She said: & I remember Millie calling me from her bedroom one morning and when I went up the stairs I suddenly felt very dizzy and could not see well.
& # 39; I told my mother about it and let me go to the opticians and when they saw swelling during the test, they immediately referred me to an emergency MRI. & # 39;
Tree nursery Mrs. Curtis and miniature golf manager Tom welcomed daughter Millie in 2015 and their son Charlie followed in February 2018. Mrs. Curtis started to get a headache in April 2018
Curtis received a malignant grade 3 brain tumor three days after surgery to remove the tumor. Shown where the tumor was removed
Mrs. Curtis had an awake craniotomy – an operation to remove a tumor where the patient is awake during the procedure. She is pictured after
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF A BRAIN TUMOR?
A malignant brain tumor is a fast-growing cancer that spreads to other parts of the brain and spine.
In general, brain tumors are classified from 1 to 4, depending on their behavior, such as how fast they grow and how likely they will grow back after treatment.
A malignant brain tumor is either grade 3 or 4, while grade 1 or 2 tumors are usually classified as benign or non-cancerous.
Common symptoms are:
- severe, persistent headache
- persistent nausea, vomiting and sleepiness
- mental or behavioral changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality
- progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
- eyesight problems or speech problems
It took another two weeks for Mrs. Curtis to actually get a & # 39; urgent & # 39; appointment, she said. By the time she was seen, her symptoms had subsided somewhat.
She said: & # 39; I made the mistake of telling them that this was the case, and suddenly my MRI was delayed by another four weeks. & # 39;
In August 2018, Ms. Curtis finally went for an MRI scan in which chemical dye was administered through a cannula to give doctors a clearer picture of her brain during the scan.
She was told that she would receive her results within two to three days, but after her doctor went on vacation for fourteen days, she remained without answers.
Mrs. Curtis said: “Waiting for the results was absolutely horrible and sent my stress levels through the roof.
& # 39; I was clearly desperate for my results and when I heard that my doctor had gone on vacation, I thought I would ask my doctor about my results in an upcoming appointment that I had booked.
& # 39; My doctor told me that he could immediately tell me what the results were there, but as he read them, he suddenly stopped and told me that he was not qualified to go over my results with me and that I should call the hospital.
& # 39; He quickly grabbed his computer screen to turn it away from me, but he wasn't fast enough and I saw the words & # 39; brain tumor & # 39;. & # 39;
Mrs. Curtis called the hospital the next day and the receptionist responded the same and told her to talk to a doctor.
Mrs. Curtis, pictured with Tom, said she was in the dark for two weeks about her MRI results while the doctor went on vacation. She discovered her brain tumor after accidentally seeing the results on her doctor's computer screen
Mrs. Curtis underwent radiotherapy for six and a half weeks (pictured on the bell at the end of her treatment) before she started chemotherapy for a year
Mrs. Curtis said: “I was absolutely out of myself with worries about an hour before the doctor called and told me he didn't want to discuss the results by phone, so I had to come to the hospital.
& # 39; By the time I went to the hospital to hear my results, I was a total nervous mess – I knew it was bad news, I just needed answers now.
& # 39; When I heard the doctor say it was a brain tumor, I was absolutely astonished and I was too shocked to show any emotion there and then.
& # 39; It was only a few days later that it really sank and I just couldn't stop crying at the thought of dying and leaving my children behind. & # 39;
On October 2, Mrs. Curtis had an awake craniotomy – an operation where the patient is kept awake so that surgeons can operate on the brain.
Doctors put Mrs. Curtis to sleep to open her skull and then wake her up while her brain was being exposed to ask her questions as they removed the tumor.
The surgeon of Mrs. Curtis told her that the tumor did not look malignant, but three days after the operation she was diagnosed with a malignant third-degree brain tumor.
The higher the grade, the more severe a tumor is, with four being the highest.
In general, high-quality tumors – which grow rapidly – return much more often after treatment than low-quality tumors.
About 5,000 people are diagnosed with a primary malignant brain tumor that started in the brain every year in the UK. Nearly 80,000 people will be diagnosed in the US.
Ms. Curtis, pictured during radiotherapy, said: & # 39; It's not about whether the tumor comes back, it's just a matter of when it comes back, which is the most difficult & # 39;
Mrs. Curtis, pictured pregnant with Charlie, said nothing could have prepared her for a cancer diagnosis. She hopes to return to work for income
After the operation, Curtis underwent radiotherapy for six and a half weeks before starting chemotherapy for a year to give her more time with her family.
Mrs. Curtis said: & # 39; It is not a matter of whether the tumor comes back, it is only a matter of when it comes back, which is the most difficult.
& # 39; The doctors told me that the type of tumor that I have gives patients an average prognosis of three to five years.
& # 39; Hearing that really made me sick, thinking I might not be here in three years. But the doctors assured me that I am young and healthy, so I should survive longer.
& # 39; Finding out that my cancer was incurable was so difficult, I couldn't bear the thought of dying and leaving my children without their mother. & # 39;
About 19 percent of patients diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor survive for five years or more, and 14 percent for 10 years or more.
Mrs. Curtis's diagnosis has only brought her family closer and on Christmas Day 2018 her partner introduced 10 years after the couple.
The couple has set a date for their wedding on July 20 next year, and Mrs. Curtis has already purchased a beautiful dress for their special day.
Mrs. Curtis and Mr. Sutherland are planning to get married in July 2020 after Christmas engagement
Mrs. Curtis said: "Discovering my cancer was incurable was so difficult, I could not bear the thought that I would die and leave my children without their mother & # 39;
To get the best out of every moment together, the family also went to Disneyland Paris in May 2019 for a vacation with fond memories.
Mrs. Curtis said: “Some people die in five years after doctors discover the tumor, but others can live much longer after diagnosis.
& # 39; I'm young and I've always been healthy, so hopefully I have 40-50 years, we just don't know.
& # 39; Doctors monitor my brain every three months with MRI scans, so it's just a wait and see game now when it comes back.
& # 39; I just want to do something with Tom and our children every day. & # 39;
Mrs. Curtis hopes to return to work at the day care center because the family needs the money after her free time for treatment.
She said: & I want to treat them with really great things and go on many vacations, which is difficult with just one wage coming in.
& # 39; We have not really thought about what we should tell the children at this stage about what is happening to me, we just focus on having fun together every day.
& # 39; I never expected this to happen to me because I have always been healthy, I have never been sick and never report sick to work – I just felt exhausted and laid it on having Charlie.
& # 39; My diagnosis has shown me that every moment is valuable, my children and family mean the world to me and I just want them to be happy and make as many memories as I can. & # 39;
CAN YOU HAVE BRAIN SURGERY DURING WAKE UP?
Awake brain surgery, also known as awake craniotomy, is a type of operation where a person must be alert under the knife.
An awake craniotomy can be performed to treat a tumor in an area of the brain that controls vision, movement or speech.
It ensures that the surgeon treats the right part of the brain while reducing the risk of damage to the area that controls language, speech, and motor skills.
It may be difficult to locate these areas before surgery, while awake surgery allows a surgeon to know which parts of the brain control these functions so that they can be avoided.
The procedure starts with a patient taking medication that makes him sleepy before drugs are applied to the scalp.
The doctor will then remove part of the skull to reach the brain.
Calming medication is stopped during the operation to awaken the patient.
The patient can then be asked questions, told to move, count or identify photos of a card.
This helps the surgeon to & # 39; functional & # 39; identify and avoid brain regions.
Some of the risks include:
- Vision, speech or learning problems
- Epileptic attacks
- Poor balance or coordination
- Leaking spinal fluid
- Weak muscles
Source: Mayo Clinic
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