Brain tumour student makes university vow

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After undergoing an awake craniotomy, Emeline Gilhooley will be heading back to Leeds in September.

The Sociology and Social Policy student, originally from Sheffield, suffered a major seizure in her sleep in February 2018, while studying at the University of Leeds.

It was to be the start of a frightening diagnosis for the 21-year-old.

“At the time there was nothing beforehand that made me think I should be worrying,” said Emeline.

“I had a lot of headaches and episodes of ‘déjà vu’ but I put it down to the day-to-day stress of student life.

“When I talked to my oncologist before my brain tumour surgery however, I was like ‘oh, those were symptoms after all.’”

Picture by Sophie Mayanne/ Behind The Scars.

Picture by Sophie Mayanne/ Behind The Scars.

“Looking back on this and the period before, I had been having five or six little seizures a week.

“In my mind a seizure was major, a falling down and shaking on the floor-type of thing but my epilepsy nurse described all different sorts of seizures, even minor ones, and it clicked into place.”

“They happened every morning and it felt like I was remembering a conversation with somebody, very much like what people call déjà vu. I thought it was kind of normal, that everyone was having these.”

The February seizure put Emeline into A&E. She was given an urgent CT scan but even at this point doctors couldn’t determine a diagnosis.

Following this Emeline was given more tests and an MRI scan that eventually led to the devastating brain tumour diagnosis; she had an anaplastic astrocytoma grade 3 on her left parietal lobe.

Up until this point, Emeline’s anxiety about what was wrong was spiralling.

“I was just very aware that I had something in my brain but didn’t know exactly what. I just knew I had a seizure and that it could cause another one.

“After my call with a Leeds neurosurgeon, when he explained it was a tumour that may have been there for five years or more, it was easier to feel calm. There was a name and a procedure, a sequence of events that was now in motion.”

Emeline was facing life-saving surgery to remove the tumour, in the form of an awake craniotomy.

“I knew I’d be asked to do stuff during the surgery to check everything was going to plan and the thought of that was really scary.

“The neuro-psychologist took me through my brain functions and loads of tests and she went into a lot of detail so I knew what to expect.”

The surgery was a success but Emeline still had to undergo a course of radiation and chemotherapy, which she will be having when she returns to Leeds.