In 2015, mum-of-three Sandra Liddell was diagnosed with a cavernoma on the brain, a cluster of abnormal blood vessels, and life has never been the same since.
She said: “It changed my life around. I basically had to relearn everything; writing, reading, walking, talking and even swallowing.
I was a shell of the person I once was.
Sandra’s nightmare started in October 2014.
She said: “I was in the bath one day and my face and whole leg started to go numb. Over time my mind and body began to deteriorate, I felt like a zombie in the unknown, struggling to place who and where I was. I felt like a child as I needed so much help and guidance.”
A doctor diagnosed Sandra with facial palsy but as time went on, she began to think that something more serious was going on.
She said: “In December the same year I went to the hospital and pleaded with the doctors; I just knew something wasn’t right. They booked me in for an MRI scan the following month.
“The scan showed that I had a ‘bag of fluid’ on my brain and I was told I’d be referred to another hospital to have the fluid drained and life would quickly go back to normal.”
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Sandra added: “In another consultation in March, a cavernoma cyst was found in my brain stem. The location of it made it too risky to operate so I just had to wait and see what would happen.
I named the cavernoma my ‘angel bobble’, it was a way of making light of the situation and coming to terms with it.
Bad luck struck again in September when the cavernoma caused a bleed on the brain.
“I was in my garden enjoying the sunshine when I started to feel very irritated so I got up out my chair and it felt like a force was pulling me over. I became very sick and dizzy and I was shaking uncontrollably,” said Sandra.
Following the bleed, surgery was her only option.
She said: “The surgery completely changed my life. I had to relearn everything again. I had real issues with my balance, facial paralysis, loss of hearing and even started hallucinating at one point.
“Sometimes when I looked at my husband, he would have two heads. I’d see ants crawling over my ceiling when I was in bed. It was a scary few weeks for both me and my family.”
A year after her surgery, Sandra’s mum suffered a stroke and sadly passed away in 2018.
“I’m four years on from the surgery now and I’ve improved massively compared to where I was, but I now have to walk with a stick and I get tired on a daily basis,” she said.
I call my head a ‘zombie head’, full of little aliens making noises and vibrations, meaning I’m never at peace.
She said: “I started going to the Headway group but I was only able to attend twice as my mum died around that time. Still, it was nice to be around like-minded people.
“The ID Card is a huge help too. I find it so useful and it gives me peace of mind when I’m out and about.”
When asked what advice she’d give to others in her situation, Sandra said: “For me personally, it’s about staying positive, focused and accepting who you are and the new you.
“If we fight against it, it only makes daily life much tougher. If changes can be made, do so gradually and don’t be hard on yourself.
“Release all anger, all hurt and frustrations, anything that is holding your healing journey back. Release with love, open a window and let it go.
“It’s okay to have negative feelings and days, we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t. But by releasing with love, you are unstrapping those heavy rocks sitting on your shoulders. You should love and believe in yourself.
Be proud of who you are and how far you have come, even if you’ve only made baby steps.
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