Amazing recovery of woman with tennis ball-sized brain tumour back to work weeks after op – despite doctors' predictions it would take at least a year
'I wanted to get back to work as soon as possible to give me something to focus on'
12:28 GMT, 12 July 2012
A woman has stunned doctors by returning to work just two months after surgery to remove a massive life-threatening brain tumour.
Nicola McLaughlin, 38, started to take her first steps just days after the risky operation despite doctors telling her it would take her at least a year to recover.
Nicola was referred to an eye clinic hospital after her optician found swelling behind her eye during a regular check in August 2009.
Fighting fit: Nicola has managed to completely recover from her massive brain tumour (left) She was awake and alert the day after her major operation (right)
She went for a brain scan and was told she would receive the results within 10-14 days. However, it revealed a tumour that covered a quarter of her brain.
Doctors rushed her into surgery within the week with the warning that the operation could cause serious complications including loss of speech, epilepsy and loss of movement.
Brave Nicola, of Falkirk, returned to work at the end of October – within weeks of being diagnosed with the cancer that almost killed her.
Nicola said: 'I was very lucky, I was determined not to let the brain cancer beat me and take over my life.
'I was told that after the op, I would be in intensive care for 24 hours followed by 24 hours in a high dependency unit then ten days in the ward before being allowed home.
'They said I would be probably off work for a year and I had to surrender my driving licence.'
The risk of removing the whole tumour was too high, and so doctors had to leave a slither of the cancer in her brain. However, Nicola has now been told it appears to have died off on its own and she hopes it won't return.
She said: 'I’ve been told there’s a
chance that it may grow back, but this type of tumour may take 10-20
years to grow again so fingers crossed it stays away.'
Brain scan: The tennis-ball sized tumour (seen left) was removed in a seven-hour operation in August 2009
The operation at the neurology department of Western General Hospital in Edinburgh lasted seven hours and within two days Nicola was out of bed and walking unaided.
Nicola said: 'The operation was on a Tuesday and on Thursday I got out of bed and tried moving and walking again. I had physio to strengthen my legs, and learn to walk up and down stairs.
'When I returned home the following week, I was determined to get well again so, holding on to my mum, I went for walks daily, doing a little more each day.
'On day one I managed to make it to one lamppost, the second day I pushed myself a bit further, day three I made it to the second lamppost, and so on.'
Nicola returned to work as an estimating manager at a construction firm at the end of October.
She said: 'To begin with, I had to fully rely on friends and family to help look after me around the clock.
'But I just wanted to get my brain working so I wanted to get back to work as soon as possible to give me something to focus on.
'To begin with, everything I did was in slow motion – walking, talking, moving – but it picked up as time went on. I also got my driving licence back by the end of January.'
Relaxing: Nicola can now enjoy taking holidays with her partner Cameron and dog Gizmo
Prior to the diagnosis, Nicola never had any worries about her health and never noticed anything unusual.
She said: 'They think it must have been there for years to get to that size, but apart from the occasional headache, I hadn’t noticed anything different.
'When I was told I had the tumour and that it must be removed immediately, doctors were surprised I wasn’t having balance, walking and speech problems.
'There had been a very high risk of me having a stroke because the tumour was pressing against my brain.'
Scar: The impact of the major surgery is clearly visible
Nicola still has an annual scan but has made a full recovery and she enjoys relaxing with her partner Cameron and dog Gizmo.
Since her recovery, Nicola has managed to raise over 4,000 for the Brain Tumour Action charity.
Lynne Barty of Brain Tumour Action said: 'Nicola was determined to recover from her surgery as swiftly as possible so that she could get on with her life and fundraise for others affected by a brain tumour. Not everyone with this condition will do as well as her.
'Brain tumours typically represent a major, life-changing event and in many cases they are incurable.
'More children die from a brain tumour and more adults under forty die from one than from any other cancer.'