Mum’s painful headaches were actually a brain tumour undiagnosed for 25 years

Gemma Heath had suffered painful headaches for years, but was just given painkillers by doctors (Picture: BPM Media)

A mum who was told she would ‘grow out’ of agonising headaches and migraines has been found to have a brain tumour, left undiagnosed for 25 years.

Gemma Heath had suffered problems since she was seven, but when her mum took her to the doctors as a child she was just given painkillers.

She was told she would also need glasses to help with the pain, but never needed to go back because she didn’t have further problems with her sight.

However, a few years later the headaches continued and her sight suddenly deteriorated. And when she went back to see a doctor she was given another set of different painkillers.

She said: ‘No other avenues on what could be causing the pains were ever discussed.

Mum Gemma Heath, with her husband and three children, Lillie-Maude, 12, Summer-Paris, 11, and Joseph-Matthew, 7 (Picture: Kate Griffiths Photography/BPM Media)

‘So, I had to learn to control the pains myself with hot baths, heat packs, lotions and oils and lots of rest and sleep. It was all that I could do about it.

Doctors told her at the time she would ‘grow out’ of the headaches as she got older, and no further tests or scans were offered to see what the problem was.

In July 2018, the mum-of-three went for an eye test, where the optician noticed her left optic nerve was swollen, and she was sent to a specialist clinic the next day.

After a number of tests it was discovered she had a ‘low grade’ tumour on her brain that required surgery.

Surgeons were able to remove 99% of the grade 2 astrocytoma – a slow growing tumour.

She said: ‘Hearing the word “tumour” was incredibly surreal – I just felt numb. I don’t believe the information really sank in straight away. It wasn’t until I saw the scan images and was discussing next steps with the surgeon that I really understood the huge impact it was going to have on my life.

Gemma was diagnosed with a slow growing tumour after going to hospital to have scans for the headaches and migraines she had been suffering from since she was a child (Picture: BPM Media)

‘However, I actually felt slightly relieved that we finally had a reason for the way I had felt my whole life and that I wasn’t imagining things.’

She said the most heartbreaking part is not knowing if she will live long enough to see her children grow up.

She added: ‘We have explained as much as we can to them about my tumour, but they have questions which I still don’t know how to answer because I don’t have that information either.

‘I found breathing the most challenging part of my recovery. My chest felt incredibly heavy and even walking across a room was difficult. I had always enjoyed walking long distances since I was a child. It was something I had been able to do with ease.

‘Finding myself unable to do the school run with my little boy was heartbreaking. I remember attempting to do so in the first week at home after my surgery.

‘My husband held me up the whole way but I was determined to do it. I did it too, encouraged by my little boy, Joseph, who was beaming at me from the school gates.’

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