'I thought I was just dehydrated – turns out I had a brain tumour'

When Mel Kelly first started getting frequent, pulsing headaches in 2022, she figured she was just dehydrated.

When they didn’t stop, she then thought it had to be due to her diet, so she cut out sugar, stopped drinking alcohol, and began eating better.

When her health took a turn for the worse, the 23-year-old went to the opticians and doctors, who she claims diagnosed her with a sinus infection, and later, migraines.

They prescribed her antibiotics and other medication, but just two days later Mel found she couldn’t get out of bed due to vision loss. A few months after that, she felt a searing pain behind her right ear, which made the hospitality worker ‘blackout.’

She went to get a second opinion, and this doctor told her she needed to go to the hospital right away, because an optometrist found a ‘large strawberry-sized’ brain tumour.

‘I knew I hadn’t been well for what felt like a lifetime at this point,’ Mel, from New Ferry, Wirral, said.

‘I felt relieved to finally get some answers, it was like a weight had been lifted.

‘I remember hearing those first words: “There’s no easy way to tell you this, I’m sorry to say you’ve got a brain tumour and there’s an ambulance waiting outside to take you to a specialist neurology centre.”

‘My first thought was that I didn’t want to die, and that day will haunt me for the rest of my life.

‘I think, until you get told those words, no one will understand or be able to describe how it feels.’

Before her symptoms started, Mel said she was the ‘picture of health’ and had never even been admitted to hospital before.

As her symptoms progressed, she did some research and began to worry that she could have a brain tumour, but her friends called her ‘crazy’.

When her vision started getting worse, she became really concerned.

She said: ‘I was scared, as I had no idea what was going on in my body and I just adapted to it.

‘Unfortunately, it became the new everyday norm to wake up with a pounding headache and go to bed feeling exactly the same – if not worse.

‘It was terrifying because I didn’t know the full extent of what was happening in my body.

‘I just carried on as normal.’

Five days after she was rushed to hospital, Mel went through a ‘gruelling’ surgery to take out 95% of the tumour.

Two months later, to her relief, it was confirmed that the tumour was benign.

Still, the whole ordeal has turned her life ‘upside down.’

Mel’s still recovering, experiencing mild vision loss, headaches and sensitivity to light.

She said: ‘I had to defer my fourth year at university, I lost my job, moved back home and I’ve had to surrender my driving licence.

‘I’ve even had to sell my car, my little bit of independence, leaving my mental health deteriorating.

‘Some people think that because I had surgery eight months ago, I must be fine now.

‘But they don’t realise that this is only the tip of the iceberg – it’s everything else that comes with it too.’

Now, Mel wants to give back to those who helped her, so she’s fundraising for The Brain Tumour Charity, Teenage Cancer Trust and Move; Against Cancer.

She’s raised £7,974 so far by abseiling and trekking the Yorkshire Three Peaks.

She’s also hoping to raise awareness with her story and show people that cancer, as well as tumours, can affect anybody no matter how old they are.

She said: ‘These things happen every day to ordinary people.

‘For me, since my diagnosis, nothing has been and ever will be, the same again.

‘I now have to live my life and adapt to this being my new normal.

‘I will forever be grateful to the NHS, as they saved my life.

‘Keep smiling, never lose hope and always find something to enjoy.

‘During those dark times, it’s the simple pleasures that can really make a difference.

‘Most importantly, nobody knows you better than you – if something doesn’t feel right, get help before it’s too late.’

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