Mum's life saved by childbirth - doctors found brain tumour hours after labour
Just a few hours after she gave birth to baby Sophie, doctors found the Satsuma-sized tumour deep within her brain. Now, six years after emergency surgery to remove the tumour, Debra has finally been given the all clear.
Part of Debra's brain was damaged during surgery, and she has lost her sense of smell, but the 44-year-old mum of one from Hull credits her little girl with saving her life.
"I'd been suffering really severe sickness and blinding headaches all the way through my pregnancy - but I just assumed I was one of the unlucky people who had to put up with morning sickness for nine months solid," says Debra.
'"I would wake up feeling like there was an axe buried in my head. But after Sophie arrived, I felt like my brain was shutting down, and I suffered a huge fit. I was stunned when doctors told me I had a tumour which they thought had been growing for at least two years.
"If I hadn't had Sophie, it might have been too late by the time I was eventually diagnosed - she probably saved my life."
Debra was running a health and beauty sales business when she fell pregnant with Sophie. She had been suffering headaches before her pregnancy, but put them down to stress, and then her nausea down to morning sickness:
I was being horrendously sick all hours of the day, but I just thought I was unlucky with my pregnancy. The headaches I was suffering were changing too, they were really debilitating, but as a first-time mum, I didn't know any different.
"My sense of smell went wild - everything smelt to strongly, and made me feel ill. I even started to experience hand tremors, but after visiting the doctor, he put my symptoms down to stress during pregnancy, and sent me away.
"When Sophie did finally come along, I had a horrendous labour, which lasted for two and a half days, and after two episodes of shaking uncontrollably, I had an emergency C-section. But immediately after the birth, I felt like I was closing down - I was exhausted, and couldn't enjoy Sophie properly."
Debra was discharged from hospital within a few hours of Sophie's birth, but the next day she suffered a convulsion while feeding her little girl.
"Mike had left me nursing Sophie with her lying on my chest - but when he came back into the room, I was convulsing and unconscious," says Debra.
"He quickly grabbed our baby and called an ambulance - and within hours, they had found out what was causing my symptoms. The doctors said my tumour was big, and wrapped right around a cord in the middle of my brain.
I was shocked, but I didn't have time to be frightened for myself - I just knew I had to fight this for the sake of my baby.
"Nothing in this world was going to stop me from pushing her around in her pram."
Following surgery six years ago, doctors have kept a close watch on Debra as they were worried the tumour might return. But she has now been told this is unlikely, and she doesn't need regular scans every few months.
Debra, who is now writing a book about her recovery, says: "It's such a relief to finally be told I can get on with the rest of my life - but I am starting to focus on campaigning for more funding and research into brain tumours."
Carol Robertson, charity development manager for Brain Tumour Research and Support across Yorkshire, said: "Research into brain cancers amounted to less than one per cent of the funds allocated for cancer research, and as was the case with Debra, diagnosis of brain tumours is often delayed.
'"Symptoms can often be mistaken for side effects of other conditions, as Debra's were, and by the time one doctor has a Eureka moment, diagnosis has often been delayed by several weeks. We're lobbying the government to change that and provide better training for GPs in spotting tumours."
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