A MUM-OF-THREE from Reading who first experienced what are likely to have been symptoms of a brain tumour when she was at primary school, wasn’t diagnosed until she was 32-years-old.

Gemma Heath from Burghfield Common had been having headaches and migraines since she was around seven-years-old.

Her mum took her to the doctors at the time and she was often given painkillers to manage it.

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She also had annual eye tests and Gemma was also given glasses to correct her vision.

As her headaches became more frequent and her eyesight deteriorated further when she got older, she went back to the doctors and was given different painkillers.

Although the GP asked about Gemma’s family medical history and both her mum and sister also have regular headaches, Gemma was never offered any scans or further treatment to investigate what could be causing them for her.

However, in July 2018, Gemma went for her regular eye test at Vision Express in Reading and it was this appointment which would change her life.

The optician told Gemma that her left optic nerve was swollen so she was sent to the eye clinic at the Royal Berkshire Hospital the following day.

The specialists there confirmed that both optic nerves were swollen and blurred.

Gemma had various tests including a CT scan, an MRI scan and ultrasounds of both eyes.

The MRI scan also revealed a suspected low grade tumour on Gemma’s brain and, following a craniotomy at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford which removed 99 per cent of it, it was confirmed that she had a grade 2 astrocytoma.

Gemma said: “Hearing the word ‘tumour’ was incredibly surreal – I just felt numb.

"I don’t believe the information even really sank in straight away.

"It wasn’t until I saw the scan images and was discussing next steps with the surgeon that I really understood the huge impact that it was going to have on my life.

“However, I actually felt slightly relieved that we finally had a reason for the way I had felt my whole life and that I wasn't imagining things.”

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As Gemma’s tumour is slow-growing, the doctors said that she may well have had it for a number of years and that the tumour could be attributed to the headaches she was having as a child.

Gemma said: “I found breathing the most challenging part of my recovery.

"My chest felt incredibly heavy and even walking across a room was difficult.

"I had always enjoyed walking long distances - since I was a child this was something I had been able to do with ease."

Gemma now has six-monthly scans to monitor her condition and she does continue to have some blurred vision and memory problems.

She takes medication to control her headaches and seizures.

She added: “Without a doubt, the most difficult part of this whole experience is not knowing if I will live long enough to see my beautiful children grow up, get married and have babies of their own.

“We have explained as much as we can to them about my tumour – but they have questions which I still don’t know how to answer because I don’t have that information either.

“Although I do have some side-effects, I am healthy and I am still here with my husband and three beautiful children so I am grateful for that.”

Gemma is sharing her story on behalf of The Brain Tumour Charity to help raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the disease.

She is also fundraising for the organisation by taking part in the Charity’s flagship event, The Twilight Walk 2020.

The Brain Tumour Charity’s Twilight Walk 2020 is an opportunity to walk 10km, 50km or 100km in your own time and at your own pace.

It will help raise much-needed funds for the charity.