Tring mum who mistook brain tumour for conjunctivitis is raising awareness of Brain Tumour Research
The senior TfL manager thought her bloodshot eye was due to tiredness
A mum-of-four from Tring who mistook a brain tumour for conjunctivitis is working with Brain Tumour Research to raise awareness of the devastating disease.
Kirsty Drury booked a doctor’s appointment for what she thought was the eye condition also known as red or pink eye on November 4, 2019, and returned home later that same day knowing she had a mass on her brain that was growing into her skull and chewing muscles.
The 45-year-old, who works as a programme delivery manager for Transport for London (TfL), had attributed her bloodshot eye to working long hours and only sought medical help after a friend noticed that it was swollen.
She said: “When I first got told I had a brain tumour I thought it meant I was going to die. When you walk into the doctor’s surgery with suspected conjunctivitis and walk out with a brain tumour, you can’t be blamed for thinking the worst.”
Kirsty underwent a 16-hour operation on November 26, 2020, following a number of delayed operations brought about by Covid-19, including one that was cancelled just 18 days earlier, after which her care was transferred from a private healthcare provider to the NHS.
She said: “I had expected to have brain surgery towards the start of 2020 but that slipped into March and then Covid-19 meant that only emergency operations were going ahead.
"As my tumour was slow-growing and probably not cancerous, I wasn’t considered an emergency. I carried on as best I could until September and then I started chasing things up because I felt like I’d been patient enough.
“How I didn’t go mad in that time I have no idea. Although I was coping pretty well and running was helping, my mental health wasn’t great because I was convinced that I was going to have a bad outcome, that I’d find out my tumour was growing faster than expected or that it was cancer.
"It was the first thing I thought of in the morning, the last thing I thought about at night and sometimes it woke me up too – I couldn’t get any inner peace.”
Not all of Kirsty’s tumour could be removed. Doing so would have put her facial muscles at risk but, after 13 months of not knowing, she finally got the news she had been hoping for, that her spheno-orbital meningioma (SOM) was grade 1 and non-cancerous.
She soon returned to full-time work and is physically fit, regularly running 25km a week, but she does bear some scars of her brain tumour journey, one eyebrow slightly higher than the other, a temporal hollow and small ‘sticky up’ bits of hair across the scar on top of her head.
She also suffers from pressure headaches and struggles with memory recall – and she has unanswered questions, particularly concerning her use of the contraceptive injection.
She said: “I’m at the stage now where I want to know why this happened.
"My consultant said it was probably hormonal, most likely progestogen, and I’m a long-term user of the contraceptive injection which is progestogen-based, but unfortunately my tumour wasn’t tested for hormone receptors.
"I’d like to know if the injection had anything to do with it and what I can do now to give myself the best possible chance going forward.
“That’s why I support Brain Tumour Research because, like them, I feel passionately about the need to raise awareness and funds for research into brain tumours.
"I don’t want to hear that we don’t have the answers.
“I also want others to know that there are lots of people living with a brain tumour.
"For some reason those stories aren’t talked about but I think they should be because at the beginning of my journey I would have given anything to have more hope.
"I want to put that alternative story out there; it is possible to get your life back after brain surgery.”
Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet historically just 1 per cent of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.
Hugh Adams, head of stakeholder relations at Brain Tumour Research, said: “We understand and sympathise with Kirsty’s frustrations at not having the answers she wants; it’s why we fund research at our dedicated UK-based centres of excellence and why we campaign so passionately for more investment from the government and larger cancer charities.
“We first came across Kirsty on social media after she shared important information about brain tumours from London Underground’s ‘All on the Board’ during International Brain Tumour Awareness Week.
"We’re very excited to have her support and look forward to working with her to help raise more awareness of brain tumours in the future.”
Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK.
It also campaigns for the government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure.
The charity is calling for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.
To donate to Brain Tumour Research, visit: www.braintumourresearch.org/donation/donate-now.