When Demi* learned she had a brain tumour the size of a grape, she was a 20-year-old uni student with a casual job, a great group of friends and a loving boyfriend.
For four years, she’d been experiencing persistent migraines that became debilitating during particularly stressful periods. And if it weren’t for her insistence on being tested for a possible cause, she might not have been diagnosed until much later.
Demi found herself making continuous appointments to see her GP after struggling through the pain throughout the end of high school. Eventually, she was put on preventative medication for her migraines.
When they persisted, she pushed her doctor to refer her to a specialist. She saw a neurologist and had all of her neurons checked, along with her speech and strength — everything was fine. Demi was told her migraines were “hereditary” and not to worry. She tried to believe there was nothing else to it.
Her concern resurfaced when she was on holiday in Bali with her family. She should have been relaxed — all there was to do was sip cocktails by the pool with her sisters — but the migraines continued.
Demi insisted on having an MRI scan, and it saved her life. (Image: iStock)
So upon arrival back in Melbourne, she begged her GP for an MRI, just to get some peace of mind. Soon afterwards she got the call.
“Bring in your mum or your friend,” they said, and so she did. That's when Demi finally learned why she was in constant pain.
“All I found out was I have a brain tumour, it’s in my frontal lobe, it’s the size of a grape. And that was it,” the paramedics student told Mamamia.
According to the Cancer Council, primary malignant tumours of the central nervous system are rare. In 2007, for instance, only seven people out of every 100,000 in Australia were diagnosed with primary malignant brain tumour.
Demi was shocked to learn she was one of them. She was young and she was healthy; average, even.
“I just never would have imagined that it could happen to me. I keep myself so healthy, I eat well, I’ve never smoked a cigarette, and I’ve never done drugs. I’m so cautious with my body, I do everything right,” she said.
“It was the scariest week of my life. I could not stop crying."
Watch: The signs of ovarian cancer that every woman should know. (Post continues after video.)
She couldn't help thinking her dream in life — to have children with her boyfriend of four years — was in jeopardy. “I said to my mum when we were driving home, ‘I’m never going to get married'," Demi recalls.
She was referred to a top neurosurgeon who told her she had an Oligodendroglioma, a form of tumour that can cause changes in mood, fatigue, seizures and migraines.
A week later, she was in surgery having her brain cut into. She described the experience as daunting and surreal, adding, “it was really painful. Lying down and feeling staples in your head is horrible."