Plymouth teacher has brain tumour removed after years of suffering with rare condition

Watch Sam Blackledge's report

A teacher from Plymouth who has lived with a rare brain condition since childhood has undergone a major operation to remove a tumour.

Rebecca Jagger-Rowden has raised thousands of pounds for a charity which supports others affected by Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) and has now opened up about how her health problems have impacted her self-esteem and family life.

From the age of 11, Rebecca suffered from sporadic but extreme migraines.

"I would get them every day for two weeks, it was awful, I was debilitated by them," she said.

"Then I wouldn't get anything for months on end. And then I'd get them again."

Rebecca's family all shaved their heads to raise money for the Butterfly AVM charity. Credit: Rebecca Jagger-Rowden

The day before her 16th birthday, Rebecca got very poorly and started having problems with her vision.

She was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with an AVM. This is a tangle of blood vessels in the brain which have not developed properly, causing blood to flow directly between the arteries and the veins.

AVMs are extremely rare, affecting less than one per cent of the population. Rebecca underwent intensive treatment, the AVM got smaller and life carried on.

But then in September last year, the symptoms returned worse than ever.

Rebecca underwent intensive treatment for many years. Credit: Rebecca Jagger-Rowden

"I was on the way to work, I was walking in, and all of my vision just started going really weird and I just panicked," she said.

"I finally got a scan and they used the word 'tumour', so I was terrified."

However, the tumour was benign and the operation to remove it took place in February this year.

Rebecca's operation was a success. Credit: Rebecca Jagger-Rowden

"I was really positive, I actually surprised myself with how strong I was throughout the process," she said.

"I found it much harder after the operation, the emotional impact that it had on me, it's been a tough few months of recovering."

Taking steroids caused Rebecca to put on weight, which she says affected her self-esteem and confidence.

"I hate to say it, but that's been the worst part for me," she said.

"When I look in the mirror I don't recognise myself. It makes me feel really vain, but part of your identity is how you present yourself physically.

"I've always been quite fit and healthy and I've always had long hair as well. I feel just feel different."

Rebecca says the weight gain has affected her self-esteem. Credit: Rebecca Jagger-Rowden

Rebecca's loved ones rallied around her and all agreed to shave their heads to raise money for the Butterfly AVM charity.

She also got some welcome support from youngsters at a Plymouth performing arts school, which she runs in her spare time.

To donate to Rebecca's cause, click here.