lifestyle

Mum’s routine eye test revealed satsuma-sized tumour hidden inside her skull


Natalie had experienced headaches and blurred vision, but didn’t seek help (Picture: PA Real Life)

Natalie Marriott, 40, had always suffered from headaches.

When, five years ago, she began to have blurred vision and dizziness, too, a doctor diagnosed her with migraines.

She disagreed with the diagnosis, so ignored her medication and just carried on with her life, seeking no further help.

It wasn’t until the mum-of-two, from Coalville, Leicestershire, who wears glasses for short-sightedness, went for a regular check-up at Specsavers on Thursday March 18, 2021, that she discovered something was very wrong.

Natalie, who has a daughter, aged nine, and a son, aged 12 ,with her financial compliance officer husband, Paul Marriott, 41, said: ‘They offered me an OCT (optical coherence tomography) scan for an extra £10, which I agreed to.

‘The optician noticed some swelling in my optic nerve and, to be on the safe side, they sent me to eye casualty.’

Tests confirmed that Natalie’s optic nerve was swollen, then a CT scan revealed a large tumour – the size of a satsuma – sitting in front of her brain.

A routine eye test revealed a large tumour inside her skull (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘It was a total shock,’ said the mum. ‘I was admitted straight onto the ward to wait for an MRI scan.

‘Luckily, Paul had been waiting around, so was with me when they broke the news.

‘I was in tears, thinking that was it and I was going to die. You just think the worst straight away.

‘I kept saying to Paul, “What about the kids?” My first thought was not being at my daughter’s wedding.’

Discharged from the Leicester hospital on the Saturday, Natalie was given an appointment on the Monday with a specialist at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, where she was told she needed surgery the following morning.

On Tuesday March 23 she had a five hour operation to remove the tumour, which left her with a jagged scar slicing across her head.

Natalie feared she would die before her children’s weddings (Picture: PA Real Life)

Natalie said: ‘The surgeon said the tumour looked the size of a satsuma or a lime and he thought it had been growing for about 10 years.

‘I had to have a craniotomy, which entails removing part of the skull to get to the brain, so I’ve got a scar from ear to ear and a lovely shaved patch at the front.

‘I still don’t think the kids really appreciate how bad it could have been.’

When she was discharged on the Friday, Natalie left hospital with two black eyes, caused by surgeons peeling back her forehead during the operation.

But thankfully, surgery removed the tumour entirely (Picture: PA Real Life)

When she was discharged on the Friday, Natalie left hospital with two black eyes, caused by surgeons peeling back her forehead during the op.

‘They were so swollen I could barely see out of them,’ she said.

‘They kept giving me blue rubber gloves of ice water to rest on my face.’

Thankfully, tests showed that the tumour was not cancerous, and has now been fully removed.

Now, the only treatment she needs is regular follow-up scans to monitor any growth.

Natalie said: ‘It felt surreal because it all happened so fast – from finding out on the Thursday to a five-hour op to remove it on the Tuesday.

Natalie will now only need check-ups to ensure the tumour doesn’t return (Picture: PA Real Life)
The tumour was found to not be cancerous (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘I didn’t really have time to process anything, so it didn’t feel real. Even now, if I didn’t have the scar and the stubble, I probably wouldn’t believe it had happened.

‘I’m really grateful to the nurses and doctors on the ward for the care they gave me. I can’t believe the hours they do – in the heat and with the masks. I can’t thank them enough.

‘I’ve got a nomination bracelet and I’ve had a charm engraved with “thankful” and the date of my surgery – as a reminder.’

Natalie’s message now to anyone with mild symptoms that mimic her own is to keep pushing doctors for answers and never to miss an eye test.

She said: ‘I would definitely encourage everyone to take up regular eye tests – it’s so important.

Natalie wants to encourage people to take even mild symptoms seriously and seek help (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘I’ve been back into my opticians in Coalville with a box of chocolates for the staff, to say thank you for spotting the lump.

‘I learned to live with my symptoms and ignored them, so the outcome could have been much worse.

‘My advice is not to be like me, but to keep persisting if you have unusual symptoms, until you discover the cause. The sooner these issues are identified the better, as they’re often easier to treat if they’re found early.’

Shailan Ruparelia, Specsavers Coalville store director, is also keen to encourage people to have regular eye tests.

She said: ‘Natalie’s story demonstrates just how important routine sight testing is.

‘And, of course, if you notice any changes in your vision or start experiencing any sudden-onset symptoms that don’t subside, it’s vital you see an optician.

‘We’re really pleased we were able to help Natalie get the care she needed, and we wish her all the best in her recovery.’

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