Bethan from Cardiff says she owes her life to her mental health nurse who encouraged her to get a scan. Doctors initially thought the 36-year-old, mother-of-two could be suffering from post-natal depression. When her behaviour became erratic, she was admitted to a psychiatric facility for four months. Her symptoms continued and became physically noticeable as she developed facial palsy. In 2011, weeks after she was discharged and two years after her symptoms began, Bethan had a CT scan and she was told she had an acoustic neuroma brain tumour.
A decade after her diagnosis, Bethan has continued to navigate motherhood whilst training to be a barrister, and living with the side effects of a brain tumour.
Bethan tells her story…
My two girls mean the world to me and I would do anything for them. After I was admitted to the mental health facility, I had to regain their trust.
I had Darci in 2005 when I was 19, after which I was told I had severe depression. Looking back I now wonder if that was a side effect of the tumour. My second daughter, Hollie was born in 2009 and that’s when everything started to spiral.
I was a newly-single parent and over the next two years was back and forth to my GP who suggested I could be suffering with post-natal and chronic depression.
“My mum noticed a change in my behaviour. I was having panic attacks, suffering from vertigo, sickness, and felt extreme fatigue.”
Doctors were concerned for my welfare and after being held in a crisis house I was sectioned for four months under the mental health act in July 2009. My girls were cared for by my mum and even though I could visit them, I wanted to get better so I could be there as their mother.
My side effects continued and were manifesting in more physical ways as I developed facial palsy which lasted for a few hours each day.
My mum was convinced there was something more to these symptoms than my mental health and when I was discharged a member of staff said to me ‘you don’t belong here Beth. When you leave I would highly recommend for you to get a scan of your brain.’
Four weeks after leaving the facility and two years after my symptoms started I had a CT scan at University Hospital Wales in Cardiff and was called in to be told the results. I was told there was a shadow on my brain likely to be a tumour.
“Further scans at University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff confirmed it was an acoustic neuroma and although slow-growing it was 3cm in size.”
In April 2012 surgeons removed part of the tumour during a 12-and-a-half-hour operation. The remainder of the tumour on my facial nerves makes any further surgery very risky and could leave me with life-changing injuries. I already have hearing loss in one ear and struggle with balance. Coming out of surgery I was in excruciating pain and needed eight lumbar punctures to drain excess fluid which built up after the operation.
A decade on, my life has completely changed. I’ve since been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and I am monitored with regular scans, the last of which showed the tumour was stable.
In 2014 I started a law degree at the University of South Wales – something I never thought I would be able to do. Despite a dip in my mental health in 2015 I came through being sectioned for the second time, graduating in 2018 and began my barrister training immediately after.
Recognising a change in my mental health, I took a break before my exams and am pleased to say that I am due to qualify next year (summer 2023).
The relationship I have with my two daughters has grown stronger, despite feeling like we lost a lot of time together as a family before my diagnosis, we are closer and the bond we have feels unbreakable.
Doctors aren’t able to confirm if my mental health is a result of my brain tumour, however they have concluded that it masked it for some time. I certainly feel like I lost control of my behaviour and that was the brain tumour.
We need to better understand the symptoms of a brain tumour so patients can be diagnosed and treated quicker. This is why I am joining Brain Tumour Research as they campaign for more funding into this disease which impacts the lives of individuals and their loved ones.
My diagnosis changed my life. I live with many scars, both physically and mentally and I think they will always be there. However, I am learning to live again and I am so pleased to be working towards a career I am passionate about and I’m enjoying being a mum to my daughters.
Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age. What’s more, they kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer... yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
Brain Tumour Research is determined to change this.
Together we will find a cure