My Regular Eye Test Found My Diffuse Astrocytoma

Gemma Heath mother of two from Reading was diagnosed with a Diffuse Astrocytoma Grade 2 in 2018. It was by chance that her brain tumour was picked up in a routine eye exam. Gemma is now on a mission to raise awareness for people to make sure they attend routine eye exams.

Here is Gemma’s Story:

In 2018 I was having blurred vision, headaches/migraines, fatigue, and memory loss. I thought it was vision-related and went to my local optician. It turned out my optic nerves were swollen.

The optician organised for me to have an appointment with the emergency Eye clinic at the Royal Berkshire hospital the following morning, it was there I was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Brain Surgery

Eight weeks after my diagnosis I had brain surgery to remove a grade 2 Diffuse Astrocytoma. I stayed in the hospital for 3 days post-surgery where I was also diagnosed with intracranial hypertension, blurred vision and now having tests for slight hearing loss.

I have 6 monthly MRI scans to check if the tumour has any regrowth.  I struggle with knowing what the future holds, how long I have before my tumour returns, its not a case of “if” but “when”.

I am back to work and feeling well in myself, my headaches are under control. Now I would like to raise awareness for people to make sure they continue to attend their routine eye exams, especially if they notice anything unusual.

I’ve learnt not to take anything for granted, to do what makes myself and my family happy. To live each day to its fullest.

Photo of Gemma Heath post brain surgery and a quote from her interview

Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?

  • Listen to all the advice and information that you are provided with, take your time to process the information,
  • Be honest with your loved ones.
  • Join Facebook support groups to speak with others.
  • As a mother, I found that being as honest as I can be with the children is the best way for us as a family.
  • Something that has helped is an essential oils diffuser – Frankincense or Lavender oils are very calming and have helped me throughout diagnosis, surgery and for anxiety regarding MRI’s

What motivates you?

My family mean the world to me! My three children and my husband, Matthew.

Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?

My surgeon Mr Stacey and my Neurologist Dr Flossman, without them I wouldn’t be here today. Dr Flossman works at the RBH and Mr Stacey is a surgeon at John Radcliffe, Oxford.

Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know? 

I love to read!!

Also, I raised money for The Brain Tumour Charity by completing a charity walk and Conquer the Climb. Raising funds and awareness for brain tumours means a lot to me.

Here is other Brain Tumour Stories:

Helping Others Helps Me Cope With My Diffuse Astrocytoma Fight

Me and My Diffuse Astrocytoma

Zentangle Art Helps Me Cope With My Inoperable Diffuse Astrocytoma

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