A mum-of-three who thought she was merely suffering with tinnitus was left "petrified" when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
Jessica Jones had to learn to walk again after doctors uncovered that the common hearing issue was actually a sign of a much more sinister issue.
She managed to get back on her feet again using a zimmer frame after a 13-hour brain surgery caused her major balance issues.
In 2019, the 38-year-old commercial banker from Llanelli in Carmarthenshire started suffering with tinnitus.
The NHS describes tinnitus as a common malady, often associated with an ear infection, anxiety or depression, or damage caused by over-exposure to loud noise.As a mum-of-three, with a hectic life, the ringing in Jessica's ears came and went, and was only really noticeable at bed time.But by June, 2020, Jessica had begun to suffer with headaches which were so painful they were waking her up in the night, so she went to her GP for answers.Jessica said: "I didn't actually get to see the GP because it was in the middle of the pandemic, but he prescribed me migraine tablets.
"I told him I'd never had migraines in my life, but I took the tablets and the GP said if it doesn't improve by the following Monday to come back.""Over the weekend I'd continued to have really bad headaches, I was in horrendous pain with them, I felt a bit dizzy, I just didn't feel right at all."A few days later, Jessica returned to the GP and was referred for a CT scan. During the two to three-week wait for a scan, her blood pressure became abnormally high and she was admitted to Prince Phillip Hospital in Llanelli for further tests.Jessica recalled the day she went into hospital on her own due to Covid restrictions and after two days of tests was given the devastating news that she had an acoustic neuroma causing pressure on her brain stem."When you hear those words, 'you've got a brain tumour' - it was terrifying, I was absolutely petrified and I just burst into tears.
"At that point I didn't know if it was cancerous or not and how quickly it was growing, and all these things just rush through your head. I couldn't really remember much he said after, I just heard the words 'You've got a brain tumour,' and, you know, I went to pieces."
"I phoned my husband to tell him which was heartbreaking, all he wanted to do was to come and sit at the end of the bed and tell me everything was going to be alright - but I couldn't have that."Whilst in hospital, Jess was told that she would have surgery within six to eight weeks, but due to Covid backlogs, Jess ended up waiting six months.On January 20, 2021, Jessica's husband Mark dropped her off at the hospital, gave her a kiss goodbye and drove away. Jessica would then spend the next two weeks away from her family.She underwent a gruelling 13-hour operation where surgeons removed a section of her skull from behind her ear, and successfully took out most of the tumour. Surgeons advised to leave a small part of the tumour which had grown around the facial nerve, to avoid causing facial palsy, however the procedure has left her with single-sided deafness.
Following surgery, Jessica’s first recollection was when she opened her eyes and she said the whole room was spinning. She went on to continue to experience a form of vertigo by simply turning her head or speaking.Jessica spent two weeks in hospital, with no visitors. Aside from hearing loss, acoustic neuromas and their surgical removal can cause vestibular damage, which can result in balance issues."The hardest part about it all was not being able to see my family. I Facetimed them as much as I possibly could, three to four times a day sometimes. When I came out of hospital though, my husband had bought the girls little nurses outfits and they were all dressed up ready to look after mammy, which was really lovely.
"It was hardest on my eldest daughter. After the operation, she was absolutely petrified that mammy wasn't going to get back to normal."She didn't like to see me that I couldn't walk around the house or that I was sleeping a lot. They think you're like Superman, so it was really hard for her to see me like that."I was really afraid that the kids would be afraid of me. This surgery had a high chance of facial palsy and I had a pretty large scar."Even now, when I put my hearing aids in, I tell them that they are mammy's little fairies helping me hear, just so it isn't as bad for them"Simple things like standing were difficult in the first few days, post-surgery, but Jessica worked with her health team at Heath Hospital in Cardiff to improve co-ordination of eye and head movements and balance retraining to allow her to walk.At the age of 37, Jess left the hospital, trundling along on a zimmer frame.Jess said: "Having to use a zimmer frame was a really big adjustment, it was really hard to see myself like that. But when I thought about it, two weeks before I couldn't stand without being sick, so to be walking out of the hospital at all was amazing."Jessica is now taking on a 10,000 Steps a Day in February Challenge to help find a cure for brain tumours.She said: "It may not seem like that big a challenge to some, but considering a year ago I was struggling to walk without a Zimmer frame, it's a huge challenge for me.“My diagnosis has left me feeling fatigued. I returned to work in September and working from home, sometimes I don’t walk more than 2,000 steps a day. I’m taking part in this challenge because without the years of medical research undertaken my outcome and life could have been so different."My family come out with me at the weekends, I am so lucky to have their support.She added: "I will be eternally grateful to the neuro team and to all those who have undertaken research into brain tumours whose dedicated work has allowed me to carry on with my life. Every single doctor and nurse that has helped me on this journey has been absolutely amazing. I honestly do not have high enough praise for the way I was looked after."When I first learned of my brain tumour I was completely alone, the nurses would come and sit with me and comfort me and reassure me. After my surgery I wasn't allowed to wash my hair for two weeks so a nurse came on her lunch break to brush and plait my hair for me, so it was out of the way."
If you would like to donate to Jessica's fundraiser, you can do so here.