Plymouth woman woke up thinking she was 28 years younger due to brain tumour

Glenn Lilley collapsed at home causing her to temporarily lose her memory, and an MRI scan confirmed a large mass on her brain. Credit: BPM Media
  • Warning, this article contains some distressing images

A woman from Plymouth diagnosed with a brain tumour woke up believing she was 28 years younger.

Glenn Lilley was given six months to live after she was diagnosed with a meningioma - a type of brain tumour in 2021.

The 71-year-old had been suffering with tinnitus and vertigo. Following a scan, an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT) said there was no cause for concern.

In July that year she collapsed at home causing her to temporarily lose her memory, and an MRI scan confirmed a large mass on her brain. Glenn was warned without surgery she would die within months.

She woke up believing she was 28 years younger than she was - and believed her sons who were grown adults were still living at home as teens.

Glenn Lilley a year after surgery. Credit: BPM Media

The grandmother-of-five said: “I thought I was 41, not 69, which was my actual age at the time. I’d lost years of my life and thought my boys, who were grown adults, were still teenagers.

"With my full medical notes in front of him, Professor Whitfield said the mass could be seen on the scan from 2017 and the ENT specialist had missed the then grape-sized mass. He commented on how aggressively the tumour had grown since that scan.

“I’m very much a get on with it type of person, perhaps that’s my Yorkshire roots coming through. Rather than harbouring any thoughts of anger towards the ENT specialist I was determined to fight this disease.

"I hold no blame for the fact the tumour was missed.

"The way I see things is: a gynaecologist wouldn’t be looking at your feet, so I understand how the tumour could have been missed on the scan looked at by the ENT doctor.”

Glenn’s operation was delayed, following two cancellations due to high Covid-19 cases. In the meantime, she was given steroids to help reduce the build-up of pressure on her brain, and within six weeks gained three stone in weight.

The scar Glenn has been left with following her surgery. Credit: BPM Media

She had an 11-hour operation in September and is now monitored with regular scans. She has been told her brain tumour will grow back, but it could take 10 years.

She said: “I live with impairments to my vision and I‘m deaf in one ear. I have headaches but all of this is manageable in the grand scheme of things.

"Although I was told it was low-grade, there is every chance it will come back and if it does then I will likely need radiotherapy as further surgery could leave me with life-changing injuries.

“I am pleased with the way things played out for me. In 2017 the tumour wasn’t immediately life-threatening, and I wouldn’t have wanted to spend the past four years knowing about it and being seen as poorly."

One in three people know someone affected by a brain tumour. In the UK, 16,000 people each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour, yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours.

Her story has been motivation for her daughter-in-law Stacey, who is taking part in the Brain Tumour Research charity’s Cycle 274 Miles in August challenge.

Glenn is now campaigning alongside a charity to help reach 100,000 signatures on its petition to increase research funding, in the hope of prompting a parliamentary debate.

She said: “I’m not sure that many people realise brain tumours are the biggest killer of children and people under 40 than any other cancer.

"I’ve encouraged everyone who will listen to. I’ve had a wonderful life and feel very lucky, now I am beating the drum for the young people living with the disease.”