A former Derbyshire Times reporter whose potentially deadly brain tumour was found by a Chesterfield optician during a routine eye test has hailed her life-saver.
Ellen Beardmore – who became well-known in the county during her year-and-and-a half with the DT – is looking forward to Christmas after a gruelling year which saw her given the news that she had a brain tumour after going for a simple eye test.
The 25-year-old had suffered almost no symptoms previously and had no cause for concern.
Ellen, who now works at the Sheffield Star, said: “I went for an eye test thinking I might need new contact lenses and I ended up having a brain tumour.
“It was the biggest shock of my life.
“When a doctor said the words ‘brain tumour’ for the first time, all I could think was I was going to die.
“But it’s incredible that it was found at all when I had no obvious symptoms.”
Chesterfield optometrist Samantha Ahmed spotted the warning signs while examining Ellen’s eyes at Boots in Sheffield.
The eye test at Boots had showed Ellen had swollen optic nerves, and that her sight prescription had changed dramatically.
Samantha urgently referred Ellen to the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield for further tests.
Hospital scans revealed a large benign tumour – found in only 20 of every million people each year.
Within days Ellen was undergoing a painstaking 12-hour operation to remove it, in the hands of surgeon Thomas Carroll who operated on Sheffield Central MP Paul Bloomfield when he suffered a different type of brain tumour last year.
Samantha, 30, said: “This was the first time I’d ever seen swollen optic nerves – it is very rare.
“There are only a few things it can be a result of, sometimes MS, so I knew it was serious but not how serious.
“I was shocked to find out later that it was a brain tumour.
“I was a bit tearful – and relieved that I’d seen it above all else – although I was upset for Ellen.
“This shows it’s really important to get your eyes checked at least every two years.
“It can pick up problems with your eyesight but also with your general health, because it’s the only way to see inside the body without surgery.”
The tumour was an acoustic neuroma, found on the hearing nerve and most commonly seen in middle-aged people rather than young women.
Not all acoustic neuromas are life-threatening but Ellen’s was because of its size and the fluid build-up on her brain.
Ellen now faces further treatment on the last remnant of the growth with specialised stereotactic radiosurgery – for which the Hallamshire is the national centre.
She said: “I feel incredibly lucky to have been diagnosed in the first place.
“To live just minutes away from the expertise at the Hallamshire makes me even more fortunate.
“I can’t thank Samantha, and everyone at the hospital, enough for saving my life,” she added.
Did you know..?
• Acoustic neuromas are benign brain tumours on the acoustic nerve, which controls hearing and balance.
• Symptoms include new hearing loss or tinnitus, vertigo, facial numbness and pain, temporary sight problems and headaches.
• They may develop gradually as the tumour is slow growing, and it can be difficult to diagnose.
• The cause of most acoustic neuromas, which grow from a certain type of cell, is unknown.
• Twenty in every million people will develop an acoustic neuroma, according to the NHS.
• Treatment, depending on the size of the growth, can include monitoring the tumour, surgery, radiotherapy or stereotactic radiosurgery.
•For more information, log on to www.nhs.uk.