Car crash saved my life: Nurse’s deadly golf ball-sized brain tumor discovered after she ploughed Nissan into a tree
A mum whose 10 daily seizures were dismissed as depression and panic attacks was horrified to discover she had a golf ball-sized cancerous brain tumor – after ploughing her car into a tree.
Lauren Neville, 30, believes the crash in January this year, which completely wrote off her 10-year-old Nissan Qashqai, may have saved her life.
The mental health nurse had suffered from sickness, tunnel vision and dizziness for two years and was eventually having 70 seizures every week – but doctors put her symptoms down to depression.
Lauren ploughed her £4,000 Nissan into a tree and completely forgot where she was after suffering a seizure.
An MRI scan after the crash in May revealed the horrifying cause of her focal seizure – a 6cm brain tumour called a glioblastoma.
Lauren from Burnley, Lancashire, said: “I felt really frustrated and angry. I was told I had emotional trauma and then depression and I kept going from diagnosis to diagnosis.
“It was only after the accident that I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I don’t think I would be here right now if it wasn’t for the accident. It was a blessing in disguise.
“I’d had symptoms for two years before I was diagnosed with the tumor.
“I suffered daily with headaches, tunnel vision, dizziness, shaking and generally not feeling like myself. I was also having focal seizures and knew something wasn’t right.
“Eventually they also sent me for an MRI scan in May and they found a 6cm cancerous tumor on my brain. I was completely devastated.
“I could only think of my kids as they are my first priority and my whole world, only them. It breaks my heart that I could die from this.”
The worried mum of two is now facing an uncertain future with her children, nine-year-old Lucy Dunn-Grimshaw and one-year-old Ollie Burns, and struggles with her short-term memory.
On June 8 she underwent a grueling six-hour operation to remove 80 percent of the mass at Preston Royal Hospital in Lancashire. Surgeons then had to use 90 staples to close the 30cm scar.
Lauren’s failing health has also had a devastating impact on her tot Ollie who can’t look at his mum without crying.
Lauren said: “Last week in surgery they removed 80 percent of the tumor. Now I’m waiting for some more scans to find out what stage my cancer is at and what treatment I need to have next.
“It’s most likely I’ll need further surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy.
“My long-term memory is brilliant but asks me what I did half an hour ago and I’ll struggle to remember.
“My little boy Ollie is extremely sensitive at the moment and can’t look at me without crying.
“His fun mum who does everything for him day in, day out now can’t climb the stairs without getting out of breath all of a sudden.”
Lauren had suffered for two years with the symptoms of her tumor but was told by three doctors she was suffering from anxiety and prescribed antidepressants.
As a mental health professional the diagnosis didn’t sit well with Lauren but she said she was shocked to learn her seizures were caused by brain cancer.
Lauren had her MRI scan at Royal Blackburn Hospital in Lancashire in May after being referred to a neurologist in February.
The results revealed a 6cm tumor behind her right eye on her frontal lobe and is now anxiously waiting to find out how advanced the disease is.
Lauren said: “The fact a 30-year-old woman was having focal seizures down one side of her body should have set off alarm bells, that’s not normal.
“Being a mental health nurse I knew the difference between hyperventilating during a panic attack and having a seizure.
“I saw three doctors and was diagnosed with anxiety. They gave me an antidepressant but I knew it was something more serious.
“Having the tumor is very traumatic but my family are amazing. It’s nice that I’ve got people to lean on.
“Knowing tumors can affect so much of you – your personality, your health and can even leave you braindead – that’s scary.”
Tragically while fighting her own health battles, Lauren’s dad James has also been diagnosed with stage three lung cancer as well as throat cancer.
Lauren and her family have set up a GoFundMe page to help raise £5,000 for their treatment.
Lauren said: “This has been very, very difficult. My dad has just been diagnosed with lung cancer and had one of his lungs removed.
“We also just found out he has it in his throat too.
“The kids are throwing themselves into everything and Lucy has been fundraising with her Brownies group.
“I think because of that it’s made them realise it’s not all doom and gloom.
“It helps me to see them happy. If they’re happy I’m happy. That helps me get through another day.”
Now she is recovering from the operation, Lauren is hoping her story will raise awareness of the symptoms and encourage others to speak up earlier.
Lauren said: “It has been very emotional and I’ve never felt so alone and frightened in my life.
“I decided I wanted to do something to help other people in this situation. I want to raise awareness of what I’ve been through in the hope it will encourage others to catch their tumor sooner.
“The support has been overwhelming. I don’t know what I would have done without it – it has made every day more bearable.”
FACT BOX: WHAT IS GLIOBLASTOMA?
• Glioblastoma belongs to a group of brain tumors known as gliomas as it grows from a type of brain cell called a glial cell.
• As with most brain tumours, the cause of glioblastoma is not known. The Brain Tumour Charity is funding research into possible causes, focused around our genes.
• The best treatment currently is surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by chemoradiation. This is a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
• Glioblastoma, however, are ‘diffuse’, meaning they have threadlike tendrils that extend into other parts of the brain making it difficult to remove it all. The chemoradiation is needed to target those cells which cannot be removed by surgery.
• Generally, it involves radiotherapy given over a period of weeks alongside rounds of the chemotherapy. The chemotherapy drug is also usually taken for a further 6 months after the radiotherapy has finished.
(Information from The Brain Tumour Charity)