A SCHOOLGIRL who suffered a huge stroke has told how it saved her life – because it led doctors to discover a rare tumour that had been growing on her brain for two years.
Medical experts were baffled when Charli Evans, 15, lost her appetite and suffered excruciating headaches over a 24-month period.
She was incorrectly diagnosed with glandular fever and dieticians believed she had an eating disorder, but it was only when she collapsed at home last September with the stroke that doctors discovered the true cause of her health problems.
Charli, who lives in Bonnyrigg and is a pupil at Lasswade High School, said: “It was horrible, but it is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I can’t really remember the stroke, but I remember being scared and shouting. I had pins and needles in my arm, then it spread to my leg, then my face, then I couldn’t feel my tongue.
“When the doctor told me the worst possible scenario would be a brain tumour, I didn’t take it in. I didn’t think it was a possibility.”
Charli’s mum, Carol, 47, and dad Andrew, 43, were told that if their daughter hadn’t suffered the stroke the tumour would have remained undetected and could have killed her.
Surgeons said the type of tumour Charli had – haemangioblastoma – usually forms on the kidneys and liver. They had never encountered it on the brain before.
The benign growth was only discovered after Charli had an MRI scan.
After a life-threatening eight-and-a-half-hour operation to remove it, she began her road to recovery.
But she is still living with the emotional scars of her two-year mystery illness, which forced her to give up football and lose a dramatic amount of weight. At her lowest ebb, she weighed just 5st 10lb.
She said: “It started off with me not wanting to eat breakfast, then I wouldn’t want to eat lunch and then I wouldn’t want to eat anything on a daily basis.
“I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to go anywhere and I didn’t want to see anyone.
“I just got thinner and thinner. I used to get teased every day and I didn’t want to get changed for PE because people looked at me funny. I was sick of people telling me that I had an eating disorder.”
But since the operation, she has gained more than two stone, rediscovered her appetite and is attending school a few days per week.
Charli said she does not blame doctors for not suspecting a tumour and is planning to raise money for ward seven at the Sick Kids Hospital where she stayed after the operation.
Mum Carol, a security officer at Edinburgh University, said: “The stigma of kids not eating because they want to be thin and like models is not always the case.
“I feel relieved. As a mother I’m delighted that she is back with all her friends and doing what she has wanted to do for the past two years.
“Our life has changed as a family and we take every day as it comes. I know it can only get better now.”
Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s important that any symptoms in children are taken seriously and any unexplained symptoms should be investigated if they persist.
“But the signs of brain tumours can be quite vague and hard to identify and most GPs and A&E departments will hardly ever see a case.”