Woman's 'déjà vu' turned out to be a symptom of a brain tumour
A woman who kept suffering from déjà vu and hearing voices in her head discovered her symptoms were caused by a brain tumour.
As the episodes became more frequent, Alison Wheatley, from Seaton, Devon also started hearing buzzing noises, which eventually lead to her diagnosis.
"Whilst sat using my computer I started to hear voices but no-one was around," the school counsellor explains.
"It sounded similar to a buzzing noise with words, but I couldn’t tell what they were.
"It happened quickly and felt a bit like deja vu."
Wheatley says the episodes started to become more frequent and would cause her mind to go completely blank.
"Sometimes it would happen when I was in a session and although I could hear and understand what my client or colleague was saying, I couldn’t speak," she explains.
"I could only respond with a grunt and then tried to carry on as normal once it was over.”
The grandmother-of-four started to wonder if she had epilepsy and saw her GP a number of times over two months until July 2016, when she was referred for an MRI scan at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.
There she was given the devastating news that there was a mass growing on her brain.
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“I was beside myself with fear and couldn’t face looking at the image of the scan," she says of the moment.
"All I could think about was my daughter, Emily, who had already gone through the heartache of her dad’s cancer diagnosis, and now I was going to have to tell her that her mother had a brain tumour.
"My whole world went blank.”
Wheatley was diagnosed with a low-grade astrocytoma, a type of brain tumour called a glioma and the most common type of brain tumour in both adults and children.
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According to Cancer Research UK around 34 out of every 100 brain tumours (34%) diagnosed in England between 2006 and 2010 were astrocytomas.
In December 2016 Wheatley had to undergo an awake craniotomy, a procedure where a surgeon removes as much of the tumour as possible, at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.
Unfortunately, however, following the procedure medication couldn’t control her seizures and despite initial fears that further surgery could impact her quality of life, Wheatley had to have a second operation in February 2021, this time under general anaesthetic.
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A follow up scan and biopsy, in April of the same year, showed the tumour had progressed to a grade 3 so she had to endure her second awake craniotomy, despite concern she could lose her speech.
When she came out of surgery for the third time, Wheatley was unable to speak.
“I spent a day in intensive care and was sleeping lots," she says. "When I came round and was well enough to be moved to a ward, I tried to say words nothing would come out and I would weep.
"Even my text messages didn’t make sense and came out as a bunch of random words.
"It took a week for these skills to return."
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Even now, Wheatley struggles with word-finding difficulties and tires easily.
But despite the challenges, she is still working as a counsellor.
“Although I sometimes struggle to find the right words, I find that having a job where I have to speak on a daily basis, has acted almost like a form of rehab," she explains.
"Being open with clients and colleagues has helped me accept my diagnosis and I feel confident in my ability to continue to support people in this way.”
After finishing her follow-up radiotherapy and chemotherapy last month, Wheatley now has regular scans to monitor for any re-growth.
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On 13 September, her daughter-in-law, Ruth Percival, 26, along with 13 of her colleagues from Morgan McKinley Recruitment will be taking on a three-day walking challenge across 155km (96miles) of the west highlands in Scotland to raise money for Brain Tumour Research.
“I’m touched that Ruth is taking on a challenge to support a charity that is working to find a cure and I know how much training she has put into it," Wheatley adds.
“My hope is that by sharing my story of living with a brain tumour, I can demonstrate that life doesn’t stop when you are diagnosed.
"You are capable of anything that you put your mind to."
To donate to Brain Tumour Research via Percival's fundraising challenge, please visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Ruth-Percival1
Additional reporting SWNS.