A new mother’s “baby brain” turned out to be an incurable tumour.
Claire Curtis, 30, began battling headaches and fatigue shortly after she gave birth to her son Charlie in February last year.
After dismissing it as the stress of parenthood, things took a dramatic turn for the worse when she began repeatedly waking in the early hours to vomit.
With her GP saying it was migraines or vertigo, Miss Curtis was only referred to hospital after a trip to the opticians revealed swelling on her brain.
An MRI scan later showed she has a terminal, grade three tumour the size of an orange.
The mother-of-two, from Plymouth, had the cancerous mass removed, but the disease had already spread around her body.
She is on chemotherapy to help extend her life so she can spend “every minute with her kids”.
Speaking of her symptoms, Miss Curtis said: “I was getting bad headaches in the front part of my head, but I put it down to being exhausted as a new mum.
“I just felt really drained and thought it was because I’d just given birth to Charlie, so I took myself for naps when I could and tried to get on with it.”
The nursery worker eventually went to her GP, who dismissed it as migraines or vertigo and prescribed painkillers.
With these doing nothing to help, Miss Curtis soon began waking every morning to be sick.
“When I started throwing up every morning at 4am, I realised I couldn’t ignore it any more”, she said.
“I was repeatedly going back to the doctors begging for help because I knew something was wrong”.
Miss Curtis – who shares Charlie and her daughter Millie, four, with her fiancé Tom, 34 – was given anti-sickness tablets.
After struggling to climb the stairs in June last year, Miss Curtis decided to go for an eye test.
READ MORE: Dad Lost His Daughter to a Brain Tumor
“I remember one morning Millie called me from her bedroom, and as I went to climb the stairs, I suddenly felt really dizzy and couldn’t see properly,” she said.
“I told my mum about it and she made me go to the opticians.
“When they spotted swelling during the test, they referred me straight away for an emergency MRI.
“It took two weeks for me to actually get an ‘emergency’ appointment and my symptoms had somewhat subsided by the time I got to the hospital.
“I made the mistake of telling them that was the case and suddenly my MRI was delayed by another four weeks.”
Miss Curtis finally had an MRI in August last year and was told she would receive the results within three days.
In yet another setback, her doctor went on holiday for two weeks, leaving Miss Curtis in the dark.
“Waiting for the results was absolutely horrific and sent my stress levels through the roof,” she said.
During this time, she visited her GP for an unrelated appointment.
“I thought I’d ask my GP about my results in an upcoming appointment I had booked,” she said.
“My GP told me he could tell me right there and then what the results were, but as he was reading them, he suddenly stopped and told me he wasn’t qualified to go through my results with me, and I’d have to ring the hospital.
“He quickly grabbed his computer screen to turn it away from me, but he wasn’t fast enough and I glimpsed the words ‘brain tumour’.
“I rang the hospital the next day, and the receptionist said she could tell me the results before having the same reaction.
“She stopped reading and told me the doctor would have to ring me to discuss them.”
“I sat on my kitchen floor absolutely beside myself with worry for about an hour before the doctor rang me and told me he didn’t want to discuss the results over the phone so I needed to come in to the hospital.”
Expecting the worst, Miss Curtis went in, only to have her worst nightmare realised.
“It wasn’t until a few days later that it really sunk in,” she said.
“I just couldn’t stop crying at the thought of dying and leaving my kids behind.”
On 2 October last year, Miss Curtis underwent an awake craniotomy.
A craniotomy is an operation to open the skull in order to remove a brain tumour.
An awake craniotomy involves the patient being conscious throughout the procedure.
This is preferred when the tumour is close to, or involves, “functionally important regions of the brain”, the NHS reports.
Miss Curtis was initially told the tumour did not look cancerous.
Just three days after going under the knife, however, she was diagnosed with a grade 3 malignant brain tumour that had spread.
“The doctors told me the type of tumour I have gives patients on average a three-to-five year prognosis,” Miss Curtis said.
In a bid to buy herself more time, Miss Curtis had radiotherapy for six and a half weeks, followed by a year of chemo.
“Although I know my diagnosis is terminal, I’m fighting for every extra minute I can get with my kids,” she said.
Perhaps hardest of all, is the impact this had her on her family.
“Finding out my cancer was incurable was so hard,” Miss Curtis said.
“I couldn’t bear the thought of dying and leaving my children without their mum.
“I’m going through chemotherapy and Millie asked me why my hair was falling out.
“I just told her mummy had something bad in her head and she kind of accepted that. She’s too young to fully understand it all really.”
Refusing to let her condition hold her back, Miss Curtis is planning to marry Tom on July 20 next year after he proposed on Christmas Day 2018.
The nursery worker is even optimistic she’ll be around in decades to come.
“I’m young and I’ve always been healthy so hopefully I’ll have another 40-to-50 years, we just don’t know,” she said.
“Doctors are monitoring my brain every three months with MRI scans so it’s just a waiting game now on when it’ll come back.
“Right now, I’m just focusing on making memories with my family. We went to Disneyland Paris earlier this year which was amazing.”
After taking time off work to focus on treatment, Miss Curtis will shortly go back to work three days a week.
“I want to treat [my family] to really great things and go on lots of holidays, which has been hard with only one wage coming in as I have had to take time off whilst battling cancer,” she said.
Tom manages a crazy golf centre.
“My diagnosis has showed me every moment is precious,” Miss Curtis said.
“My kids and family mean the world to me. I just want them to be happy and to make as many memories as I can.”