A WOMAN who thought her headaches were down to the menopause was shocked to find out the devastating truth.
Anna Kane, 49, had tried everything to budge her headaches which were becoming increasingly frequent.
The design and production manager was always prone to headaches as a child before developing migraines ‘overnight’ in her 30s.
When she started experiencing daily, excruciating headaches that needed constant painkillers to make life bearable in 2019, she believed they were triggered by hormonal changes.
Her doctor agreed that the must be caused by the perimenopause – the transition into menopause that can last years, usually starting in mid-40s.
But then Anna had a terrifying hallucination that led to more tests, and a diagnosis.
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Speaking of her daily pain, Anna, of Lewes, East Sussex, said: "It felt like the tension headaches and migraines were just blurring into one.
"I needed to take tablets to get through the day and do my job.
"I would be in tears at work because it was just too much. I couldn't function with the pain."
Anna, who lives with her production director husband Des Kane, 49, said the pain "felt like there was a fire in my head".
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She said: "It was affecting everything. Everything had just become so much harder.
"Even my hearing was affected. If it was noisy, I'd struggle to focus on just the one noise.
“The pain was sapping all my energy."
Thinking her headaches were a symptom of the perimenopause, Anna took steps to relax and ease the pain, by trying yoga, changing her diet and drinking more water.
Agreeing Anna must be perimenopausal, her GP prescribed medication to ease the pain.
Then a mysterious incident in September 2021 gave an early warning sign that something else was amiss.
Anna said: "I was working from home and was sat on my computer when suddenly, I woke up. I was lying on my left hand and elbow at my desk.
"I remember coming to, looking at my screen and thinking, 'What the hell has just happened?'
"I was there and then suddenly I wasn't, but I couldn't recall what had happened."
Life continued as normal until the morning after her birthday, on November 7, when Anna had a terrifying hallucination in the night.
She said: "I was looking out of the window at the South Downs, when I saw these werewolves coming down our garden for us.
"I said to my husband, 'I don't know what is real or what is not anymore but I can see werewolves’.
"I don't remember anything else past that point, but my husband told me that I started screaming and pointing up at the garden, before falling backwards and shaking and convulsing all over and biting my tongue."
Rushed to A &E, Anna was checked over and sent home, but a number of tests at a private hospital shortly after led to alarming news.
She said: "They showed me the screen and I saw this big white lump."
Anna was diagnosed with a 5.6cm low-grade benign meningioma brain tumour.
Headaches are one of the key signs of a brain tumour, and Anna had also suffered seizures and hallucinations.
Anna was given the choice of monitoring the tumour’s growth or having it removed, and chose the latter.
She said: "I don't remember feeling scared, more just relief, knowing there was a physical reason for the way I felt.
"I just thought, 'Let's get on with it.'"
Getting life back
Anna had two operations – one of three hours to cut off the supply of blood and fluid to the tumour and a second lasting six-hours to remove the growth.
The surgery, in January 2022, was deemed a success.
Some 2cm of Anna’s brain was also removed, leaving a scar from the top of her ear, across the side of her head and down to her forehead.
She said: "The surgeon told me afterwards that the tumour was benign and could have been growing for between five and 10 years.
"I would have had between five and six years left to live if it had been left there, because it was pushing my brain so intensely into my head that I could have had an aneurysm or stroke.”
In the two weeks post surgery, Anna said she “felt like a new woman" and had an emotional epiphany.
I didn't realise I had stopped laughing because of the brain tumour
She said: "I didn't realise it, but while it was there, I had lost a part of my personality.
"After the operation, I felt much more emotional and my husband and I had never laughed so much.
"I didn't realise I had stopped laughing because of the brain tumour. It was like seeing everything differently and we just really connected.
"We were driving along over the South Downs coming back from hospital and I could see this really intense colour coming off the land and grass.
“It was like I was seeing new colour for the first time.
"There were also gaps in my vocabulary, where I couldn't remember words, and my brain was remapping itself. Every time I learned a new word, it felt amazing – as if It had never existed before in my head.
"I remember listening to the birds singing and thinking, 'Is this a new sound? Has my brain never heard this before?' It was so exciting.
"But most amazing were my feelings for Des, who I've been married to for 18 years.”
Anna slowly returned to work after two months in recovery.
She said: "I've learnt to focus on the now.
"One of the things I love is touching the scar on the side of my head, because it is a physical thing on my body to remind me what I have gone through.
"It is a reminder to say, 'Don't be too tough on yourself'."
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Keen to help The Brain Tumour Charity to spread awareness of symptoms and treatment, Anna is still learning new things every day.
She said: "If you feel in your gut that something isn't right, you must push and get some tests done.”
The signs of a brain tumour
Headaches can be caused by a myriad of reasons, you could be dehydrated or even stressed.
Most of the time headaches can be fixed by pain killers, but if your headache is persistent or is getting worse, then this could be a sign of brain cancer.
If you are suffering with nausea and regular sickness is unexplained this could be a sign of brain cancer.
The NHS advises if you persistently feel sick or if you are consistently being sick and you feel drowsy you should see your GP.
Seizures can often be a red flag you may have a brain tumour.
It is when you suffer an involuntary movement and are unable to control your arms or legs.
Feeling weak is not unusual – if you haven't eaten enough or have really exerted yourself you can feel a bit wobbly.
But feeling weak regularly despite being rested, eating well and with no other known reason is a warning sign of cancer you should get checked out.
Vision or speech problems
Speech problems and fuzzy vision can be signs of all sorts of conditions.
Too much booze, or feeling stressed or anxious could bring on these symptoms.
But it is often a red flag of a tumour – going to your optician or the GP is the next step if you've noticed a change.
It is common to feel many different moods and emotions throughout one day.
Generally stress or the task you are doing will be the cause, but if you have noticed a change in yourself or loved one that you can't explain, it could be a sign of cancer.
The NHS says "mental or behavioural changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality" could be signs of brain cancer.
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