Sophie Wardle, 28, had to have her skull cracked open to remove a brain tumour doctors initially dismissed as exam stress.
Sophie, from Birmingham, had more than 40 staples across her skull after a craniotomy to remove the tumour.
She’s sharing her story to raise awareness of signs of a brain tumour, and to encourage people to push for medical help when they feel they need it.
The mum of five was suffering from seizures for months, but thought they were panic attacks.
Her symptoms began just seven months after Sophie began her course to become a nurse.
She said: ‘I thought I was suffering from university stress, I never imagined it would be a brain tumour.
‘I began battling with what doctors thought were symptoms of anxiety such as the seizures and struggling to breathe.
‘I started to worry when my muscles went stiff and began to shake also but doctors reassured me that it did appear as though it was stress related.
‘ described the seizures as not being able to breathe, and they said that because I was a new mum, it sounded more like a panic attack, and wouldn’t take me to hospital.
‘It wasn’t until the doctors witness a seizure in the corridor after an appointment, that they began looking into it more seriously.
‘I then had an MRI scan which detected the huge tumour in the frontal temporal lobe of my brain.’
Sophie was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumour in 2014. She had to undergo a craniotomy, which involves a section of the skull being removed, in order to clear the tumour. At that point her tumour was the size of an orange.
Four years later the tumour returned, and in August 2018 Sophie had another surgery – this time lasting six hours, while she was awake for the entire thing.
‘It was heartbreaking when I was told my tumour returned last year shortly after the birth of my youngest Tommy-Jay, now two,’ said the mum.
‘But I knew I needed to be strong for my children, Grace, 12, Millie, 10, Paige, eight, Erin five, and my baby Tommy-Jay two, and I knew I had to continue to fight.
‘My eldest struggles a lot as there isn’t much help for children trying to understand losing a parent so young.
I had the first craniotomy on the 24th March 2014, and the second one awake on the 14th August 2018 and have since been struggling with my speech and movement.
‘Having to be awake during the second surgery was the worst experience of my life – but the team were amazing.
‘It was knowing that one wrong move could cause a stroke or a brain bleed.’
Despite two surgeries, Sophie still isn’t ‘cured’. She will have to continue to be monitored to ensure the tumour doesn’t return or cause further symptoms.
Today she still experiences difficulties with speech and movement.
Sophie refuses to let that hold her back, though.
‘I know I’ll never be completely free of my tumour, who I have named Timmy, but I intend to enjoy every moment with my kids,’ says Sophie.
‘My mum always said this quote to me that made me feel braver; about how I was having to withstand a storm.
‘These experiences have made me become the storm – I’m determined and I’ll enjoy the life I have.’
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