U.K. woman Liz Kirtley was shocked when she discovered that her declining hearing was the result of a tumor and not simply old age.
The 45-year-old mother of two had experienced hearing loss for a number of years before she could no longer hear on the phone through her right ear. Her doctor finally referred her to an ear, nose and throat doctor in Oxford.
During her visit to the specialist, Kirtley discovered that she had an acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous growth on the part of her brain that helps control hearing and balance.
“I didn’t realize it was anything to worry about because I just thought it was old age as the hearing in my left ear was perfect,” Kirtley said. “There are always things that you worry about and go to the doctors for but they turn out to be nothing.”
Kirtley noted that she was shocked by the actual size of the growth, especially since it was quite large compared to her eyes.
Following her diagnosis, Kirtley was given the option to shrink the mass with surgery or with radiotherapy. Kirtley and her husband finally decided to opt for radiotherapy, since the 10-hour operation would have taken more time to recover from.
The operation involved surgeons fitting a metal frame to Kirtley’s skull using metal pins to keep her head still. She was also given a dose of local anesthetic to ease the discomfort of the operation.
While Kirtley still has some trouble with balance, she noted that the tumor could have been far worse if it had been left untreated.
“I try not to think about it still being there in my head but as I’m coming closer to my annual scan I’m starting to think about it again,” Kirtley said. “If I was not diagnosed it would have kept growing and eventually killed me because there’s not that much room in your head for a brain and a tumor.”
The tumor is exceptionally rare. Only 20 in one million people are diagnosed with it. Now, Kirtley hopes to come to terms with her symptoms and raise awareness about the tumor diagnosis.