A woman plagued by ‘anxiety’ for a decade has discovered the symptoms were actually caused by a golf-ball sized brain tumour.
Emily Bailey, 34, started experiencing dizziness and fatigue in her twenties, but assumed it was anxiety – as did her doctor, who prescribed medication to ease it.
But while out jogging in November 2019, the administrator suddenly lost her balance and crashed into a garden wall.
Emily, from Oundle, Northamptonshire, said her balance deteriorated to the point where she needed to be supported by someone when she went out.
She had an MRI scan at a private hospital in March, and was told she had a tumour the size of a golf ball on the left side of her brain, pressing against the nerves controlling hearing and balance.
Emily said: ‘The type of tumour I had was a slow-growing one and doctors told me I’d probably had it for about 10 to 12 years.
'I was gobsmacked. The consultant said that, for all that time, I hadn’t had anxiety – the tumour had been causing my symptoms.
‘As terrifying as my diagnosis was, in a way, it almost felt like a relief. My symptoms hadn’t been all in my head and there was something that could be done about them.’
After her first dizzy spell in November 2019, Emily had assumed she had caught a winter virus.
She saw her GP and had a blood test and an electrocardiogram to monitor the rhythm of her heart – neither of which were abnormal.
With no obvious signs of anything more sinister, doctors suspected she had a common condition called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV).
She tried repositioning exercises, which usually have a high success rate, according to the NHS, as well as some home remedies, like using an ear candle to remove wax – but to no avail.
When her balance worsened and her hearing faded in her left ear, she was told she simply had blocked ears, but decided to take further action.
‘I had a couple of other strange symptoms too, like tinnitus – when you hear a near-constant ringing – when I lay down,’ she said.
‘I also began to lose my taste and the left side of my tongue almost felt tingly.’
Once a scan finally revealed the presence of a tumour in her brain, Emily was officially diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma – a benign tumour that affects around two in 100,000 people in the UK annually, according to the charity British Acoustic Neuroma Association (BANA).
Symptoms may not be obvious at first, but can include hearing loss on one side, tinnitus, vertigo, persistent headaches, blurred or double vision, difficulty swallowing, facial numbness and problems with limb co-ordination.
‘By that point, I’d had the dizziness for four months, so I was relieved to finally have an answer,’ said Emily.
‘It was shocking to be told that the anxiety – something that had been a part of my life for a decade – wasn’t anxiety at all, but rather the symptoms of a brain tumour I hadn’t even known was there.’
Because of the precarious position of the tumour, surgery was the only option – a prospect Emily found ‘terrifying.’
She added: ‘I got it into my head that I was going to be put to sleep by doctors and would never wake up.’
At the end of March, Emily went to Cambridge’s Addenbrookes Hospital for an operation to remove the tumour, but could not have any loved ones in the room with her, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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