A nurse in England diagnosed her own brain tumor after spotting a poster describing the symptoms and signs of brain tumors in people.
Chantal Smits, now 22, began suffering headaches and other minor symptoms back in 2014 during her first year as a nursing student.
“I felt tired all the time and used to fall asleep at 8 p.m., pretty much as soon as my daily shift was over,” Smits told The Sun. “But I put it down to the fact that at that time I was working 40 hours a week and writing essays all weekend. And in any case, all nurses are shattered half the time! It’s a hazard of the job.”
Smits took painkillers to make it through the day and chose not to see a doctor.
For four years she endured the pain and fatigue until she started working as a neurology anesthetic nurse at St. George’s Hospital in England.
She would assist surgeons operating on patients with brain tumors while she was suffering crippling headaches and taking eight tablets a day to manage the pain.
“But I still didn’t think too much about it,” she said.
“Then one day, while on the bus home, I felt an odd sensation—like rain was trickling down one side of my face. Yet still, I never told anyone about it. Comparing myself to those seriously ill patients I saw every day, I told myself my own symptoms were trivial and I would just have to put up with them.”
She finally realized in February 2018 that she had a brain tumor after reading a poster on the wall of the hospital that described the symptoms and signs indicating that people have the tumors.
“I thought, ‘Hang on a minute. Headaches, constant fatigue, occasional visual impairments—I have all those. Maybe I should go to the [doctor], just in case.’”
She did, and a head MRI revealed she had a large mass on her brain stem. Because of its position, doctors cannot operate on it.
According to the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, brain tumors are sometimes cancerous and sometimes noncancerous, or benign. More than 9,000 people in the country are diagnosed with primary brain tumors every year and many others are diagnosed with secondary brain tumors.
There are an estimated 700,000 people in the United States living with a primary brain tumor, with about 80 percent of the tumors being benign, according to the National Brain Tumor Society. An estimated 79,000 more were going to receive a diagnosis in 2018.
Smits said she’s trying to live a normal life and the tumor is not growing at this time. She shared her story to raise awareness of brain tumors. Smits is supporting HeadSmart, a brain tumor awareness campaign that seeks to educate people about brain tumor symptoms.
“I consider myself lucky that my own tumor was caught early,” she said. “Looking back, I can see now that I had symptoms for a very long time. I shouldn’t have ignored them. Now I hope to help raise awareness of brain tumors and do something positive to help others.”
She wrote, “By 2020 I am aiming to have raised £10,000 for The Brain Tumour Charity to help #FindACureSooner and ensure continued support and readily available resources for patients and families of those who have Brain Tumours.”