During her final year of medical school, Frances Paine, then 26, started suffering from migraines. The headaches were often accompanied by "auras" – perceptual disturbances like phantom smells or unusual lights that signal the start of a migraine for sufferers.
Paine wasn’t worried, she told The Guardian. It wasn’t until she lost the ability to speak for a few seconds during one of her migraines that she talked to her GP, who then referred her to a neurologist. Still, Paine was reluctant.
"I really don’t need to be here, I can just go," she told the neurologist.
But an MRI revealed a brain tumor on the frontal left parietal region of her brain. Doctors weren’t sure how long it had been there, so they decided to monitor it with regular scans for the time being.
Unfortunately, the tumor grew, and it became clear that Paine needed to have an operation. The timing was terrible: she had a big exam coming up, which "I couldn’t exactly take while recovering from brain surgery," she said. Surgeons performed a 7-hour awake brain surgery – which involved putting Paine to sleep for the first part then waking her up to monitor her speech -for the day after her exam.
After two-and-a-half months of recovery, including brain swelling and two bouts of sepsis that required hospitalization, Paine was back at her job as a doctor. Today she’s preparingto run the London Marathon to raise money for neurology research.
Brain tumors are rare; they don’t get as much funding as other types, she told The Guardian. "It’s the least I can do after all they’ve done for me."
If you suddenly start experiencing migraines, make an appointment to see your primary care physician. You can learn more about migraines at headaches.org.
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