A mum who was told after developing an “octopus-style” brain tumour that having a baby could kill her has thanked a medium for her “beautiful little girl” after the psychic gave her pregnancy the thumbs up despite doctors’ concerns.
Lisa Connell, 42, received the shocking news that she had an incurable meningioma – a benign tumour of the membranes that cover the brain – the size of a tangerine in 2006, the year after she had developed double vision during a pregnancy that she, sadly, miscarried.
Worst of all for full-time fundraiser Lisa, of Northaw, Hertfordshire, who is now single, was being told that having a child could be fatal.
She said: “I was told I would never, ever be a mum. It hit me hard, I love children.
“It was terrifying to think that I would never have my own family and do the things I wanted to do.
“It was horrifying enough to be told that I had a brain tumour, but devastating to also be told that I couldn’t have children, because the pregnancy hormones would ‘feed the tumour,’ putting my life at risk.”
Lisa was pregnant when she first started feeling unwell in April 2005, although she tragically miscarried at four months.
Prescribed new glasses, following several visits to the optician, she asked to see a specialist at London’s famous Moorfields Eye Hospital a year later, after hitting her car on a bollard.
By then, experiencing a noticeable squint in her left eye, she was still completely unprepared for her brain tumour diagnosis.
She said: “As soon as they said brain tumour I thought I was dying straight away.”
Worse was to come in the following months when the “tentacle layers” in her tumour – which she was told could not be cured – were pressing on and moving around crucial nerves in the brain and caused partial paralysis from her waist down.
Spiralling into a dark mood, Lisa said: “I was very depressed and wanted to give up.”
She added: “I’d be paralysed intermittently from the waist down. For two days I’d be paralysed, then my movement would return.
“I was falling all over the place, and grabbing walls to stay upright.”
Eventually, in 2009, Lisa had Gamma Knife surgery at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in central London, in which intense gamma rays are used with pinpoint accuracy to deliver a very precise dose of radiation to a target.
It was unsuccessful, as the radiotherapy aims to stop the growth of the tumour, but subsequent scans revealed that it had grown.
In 2012 she then had debulking surgery at King’s College Hospital in south east London, which is basically an operation to reduce a tumour’s size, but in her case, less than five per cent of the mass was removed.
Still, this enabled doctors to perform tomotherapy at central London’s St Thomas’ Hospital in 2013, in which radiation is aimed at a tumour from many different directions.
While Lisa’s tumour is benign, it is still life-threatening. And although she has not been told how long she has to live, following recent tests, neurologists at Guy’s Hospital in central London have told her “any growth” could be fatal.
But, in the midst of her gloom, in 2015, Lisa was given a huge helping of hope when she discovered she was expecting a baby with her then partner, Dean Forster, 42, a hairdresser.
She said: “I asked Dean to get me a test and when it was positive, I couldn’t believe it. We hadn’t been trying and I never thought this would happen to me.”
But her doctors’ warnings were ringing in her ears after she had been told that her tumour would “feed off” pregnancy hormones, meaning there was a very real danger that having a baby would kill her.
Veering between joy and fear, the night of her positive test she had booked to go to an audience with a medium at a local theatre.
Sitting in the crowded auditorium, she could not believe it when she was singled out.
She said: “The medium pointed at me, pointed at my stomach and told me I was going to be fine – and she was 100 per cent right.
“Her reaction made me think I needed to go on with my pregnancy.
“I’m so grateful to her, as I was advised to consider a termination because of my health and if I hadn’t seen the medium I wouldn’t have carried on.”
But she was not out of the woods, as a 32-week scan at Barnet Hospital in Hertfordshire revealed that the baby had a rare condition called corpus callosum, which had a 50 per cent chance of causing developmental issues.
Still, Lisa and her baby fought on and on March 18 2016, Ruby Forster was delivered by caesarean section at 34 weeks, weighing 4lb 6oz.
Lisa said: “She was tiny and remained in the hospital for a further 12 days. But she was absolutely perfect.”
She added: “She was classed as disabled before she was born, but we don’t see much evidence. She’s a relatively normal child.
“You wouldn’t know any different. She’s dyslexic but she can read and she can write.
“Ruby is the most important part of my life.”
Lisa, who is no longer with Ruby’s dad, is now the proud mum of a five-year-old and loves seeing her daughter go off to school in the morning.
She said: “Before I had Ruby, I thought I was going to die and that I couldn’t have a baby.
“Ruby is now five and a half years old and a real little personality.”
She added: “She loves performing arts and also wants to play her part, like me, in fundraising for Brain Tumour Research.”
At the moment, Lisa’s condition is stable as her neurologists are “confident” the tumour will not grow after seeing her yearly scans over the last five years.
She said: “If I have a year or 20 years, I don’t care. I want to make the most of today.”
She added: “Research is the most important thing. Doctors don’t know why I got the tumour and they don’t know how to cure it.
“But everything happens for a reason. Now my life goal is to raise a million pounds for charity.
“And I will go through life being grateful to the medium who told me my pregnancy would be fine and was 100 per cent right.”
Charlie Allsebrook, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, praised Lisa’s fundraising efforts for its current campaign, Officially Lisa Connell.
He said: “Lisa’s story is a stark reminder that brain tumours are indiscriminate and can affect anyone of any age at any time.
“They kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
“We are very grateful for Lisa and Ruby’s support as we remain focused on changing this situation through our continued commitment to fund vital research.”
* To donate to Officially Lisa Connell at Brain Tumour Research go to www.lisaconnell.com or www.justgiving.com/campaign/OfficiallyLisaConnell