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Don't ignore the warni...

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Don't ignore the warning signs

Don't ignore the warning signs

I was in total shock this happens to others, not me!

Mum of two Michelle has always led a busy life, so it was easy to ignore the warning signs. It was only when she was rushed to A&E that things quickly became serious.

Michelle is the centre of the family, married to Simon for thirty years, with her children now grown, and two grandchildren to dote on. She enjoys baking, cycling, walking and spending time with family and friends. Professionally Michelle is a qualified Play Therapist and has held a senior position with the charity MyCWA for the past fifteen years.

Sudden burn out

This story starts in April 2023. Michelle had just returned from a trip to Australia, and on the day she was due to return to work, suddenly felt a dread and anxiety she had never experienced before. This feeling escalated quickly, and a job which she loved, and had worked hard at for the past fifteen years felt unmanageable. Knowing something wasn’t right, Michelle booked an appointment with her GP where she was offered anxiety medication.

Michelle told us “I had no history of anxiety or mental health and nothing seemed to make sense.”

Deciding medication didn’t feel right for her Michelle chose personal therapy, however, when this didn’t lead to the improvement she needed she accepted the GP’s recommendation of medication.

My body stayed in shutdown

Over the next few months, Michelle felt her body remained in ‘shut down’. She was devoid of emotion, her once joyful life felt numb and blank. She wanted to stay at home at all times, and even when her family did persuade her out, Michelle was anxious to return home as quickly as possible.

My whole world was in turmoil and not making any sense to me.

By September, with things still not improving, Michelle made the difficult decision to resign from her job. This was a huge decision, until just a couple of months before Michelle had adored her job, coped well and was a passionate and valued team member. However, being off sick with no return date in sight she now felt she was letting them down.

Focal seizures

Fast forward to late October 2023, Michelle experienced three ‘episodes’ over a couple of weeks where her speech slurred, and her face tingled. She had had this feeling once before, the day after starting anxiety medication back in May, which at the time, she put down to being a side effect of that. Michelle was confused but not overly concerned by these episodes.

The last episode lasted two to three minutes one Friday afternoon; this time the episode stayed on Michelle’s mind and she contacted her GP the following Monday.

The GP listened to Michelle’s symptoms and referred her straight to A&E. Michelle said:

I was totally baffled by this, it had been a few days since the episode, surely A&E would just send me back to GP for blood tests?

Things suddenly became very serious

The staff at A&E started with blood tests, which came back normal, but they wanted to explore further and so Michelle was to have a CT scan.
“As always, it was busy in A&E, with people looking so poorly, in pain, elderly and frail. I joked with my son ‘I am wasting the NHS time look at all these sick people who needed help’.”

In the early hours of Tuesday, things became very serious. Michelle and her son were told that the CT scan had identified a large mass (tumour) on her brain that was life-threatening and cancerous. Michelle would need an MRI and surgery.

I was in total shock this happens to others, not me!


The MRI confirmed the large Meningioma, fortunately now thought to be benign.
The doctors explained to Michelle that this had been growing over a very long period, potentially years due to its size.

Surgery was the only option at this stage as it was putting so much pressure on my brain it was now life-threatening.

Michelle was prescribed steroids immediately and referred to a neurosurgeon. In mid-January 2024 she underwent a 6-hour craniotomy surgery to remove the tumour. We are pleased to say that Michelle is recovering well.

Turning the light back on

Michelle told us that when steroids were prescribed on diagnosis and post-surgery, it felt like a light had been turned back on. Likely because it had built over time, she hadn’t realised how much pressure her head was carrying, and how gradually, over all those years things had become more difficult.

“I put it down to a busy life, getting older, stressful challenging work in domestic abuse and child protection, and studying.”

Recognising the signs

Despite living with the tumour, which had possibly been growing for over twenty years, Michelle was completely unaware until her visit to A&E in November 2023. Having always taken care of her health, fitness and diet it never occurred to her that this could be happening. She said:

“I want to share my story as in reflection there were potential signs I dismissed or trivialised in my busy life. Things like extreme tiredness, and weakness on my left side, while walking veering on occasion to the left. Pins and needles occasionally in my head, sensitivity to light, struggling with noise and in social situations changes.

“On their own, these symptoms did not feel like something to worry about, but in the larger picture, I now know they were signs of the tumour growth.

“In busy lives it’s important to get checked if something doesn’t feel right or has changed, it can and does save lives.”

A lot to learn

Having worked for charities herself, Michelle knew how valuable they could be as sources of support.

“After being thrown into a world of uncertainty I was quick to reach out to Headway – the brain injury association and The Brain Trust for support, information, and excellent resources. These invaluable services helped me and my family process things and have made things easier. I knew nothing about these tumours but through the charities, I was able to gain insight, reassurance and access to support groups, as you can feel very alone.”

If you need support

If you have questions or need support regarding tumours, symptoms or living with brain injury, please don’t hesitate to call the nurse-led Headway helpline.

The Helpline Team offer a free and confidential support service to help anyone experiencing the effects relating to brain injury.

Freephone: 0808 800 2244 | Email:


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