Time as a new mum should be one filled with discovery, loss of sleep and the joy of watching your little one grow. For Gold Coast mum, it was a fight for her life when she found out she had a massive tumour in her brain.
When Debra Balhatchet was pregnant with her first baby boy, she started loosing the vision in her left eye and hearing in her left ear. She just put it aside – after all, she was running a new Subway business with her husband, being mum to her step kids and busy with the business of being pregnant. Life was hectic. “I just brushed it off but when I started having problems with the feeling in my face, I thought I should probably get checked out,” she said.
Off to her GP she went who referred her to neurologist. His response was ‘things happen
when you’re pregnant. We’ll deal with this when you’re not. Debra left feeling brushed off
and in the pit of her stomach, the seed of worry started to fester. she couldn’t feel the left side of her face and her hearing was failing. She thought things would get better after she gave birth. After all, the doctor was not worried.
In October, she welcomed her son into the world and then the headaches started. Her balance was also off (she had stopped driving for fear of having an accident). Her health got worse. Debra said the headaches were debilitating. ‘Every time I looked down feed the baby and then back up, the pressure in my head would cause pounding. I did not want to feed my baby because I could not look down at him without major pain” she said. “I wondered if other new mums were going through the same thing. I know having a new baby is a time of adjustment but I thought this could not be what being new mum was like.”
Back to the doctor she went. This time for a MRI.
“I remember saying to mum I hope they find something because I can’t live like this. But on the other hand, I hope they don’t find something because I don’t want anything to be wrong,” Debra said.
Her guts were a swirling turmoil of anxiousness as she waited to the results. “The MRI guy came out and said you need to wait here for the doctor. When I got up to check on my baby, the guy freaked out when I came back in. He thought I had left. I thought it was a bit odd.”
Then when the senior doctor said to her ‘do you have private health care?’. She knew there was something seriously wrong.
The doctor told her she had a very large brain tumour that was life threatening and needed immediate surgery. “I felt like he just told me do not pass go, do not collect $200,” Debra said.
The tumour on Debra’s brain was four and half centimetres growing on the left-hand side and this was why she was losing her hearing; her face was numb and her balance off. It had been the re throughout her entire pregnancy. The doctor was amazed she was still alive.
“I was admitted to hospital that day. The neurosurgeon came to talk to me about it and basically said he had to operate. The tumour had gotten too big for any other option and he had to do it as soon as possible. There was so much swelling on my brain, they had to delay surgery. I went onto steroids for a week and I was operated on exactly one month to the day that my son was born,” Debra said.
Debra spent weeks in intensive care separated from her family and her new baby. “He was
three weeks old and I had to stop first breastfeeding. I couldn’t do much expect for sleep. It was really hard,” she said.
“I read about all these mothers saying how they had not gotten any sleep because their baby was keeping them up. All I wanted was to be up all night with mine. To be a normal mum.”
The road to recovery has been a challenging one for Debra. She had to learn to do so much again. The hearing in her left ear is gone and the left side of her face is frozen. But she is alive and looks at life differently now. Eating and drinking is a problem – Debra eats using her right side of her mouth and needs a straw when drinking.
Although releasing the anger she felt at the neurosurgeon who brushed aside her symptoms, it took a little while to work through it.
“I was pretty angry really because I felt like her had treated me like hormonal pregnant woman and brushed me aside. I told him there was something wrong and he dismissed me. Made me feel like I was being dramatic,” she said.”I want other women to know they should trust their bodies. They know them. They live in them 24/7. “I’ve worked through my anger and now look to the silver lining of all that has happened to me. I have always been an independent person and now I know it is okay to ask for help. I am more likely to put my hand up if things are not going well.
The tumour is still there. Deb faces more treatment but she faces it with a different attitude. She now embraces the strength she did not know she had. She keeps putting one foot in front of the other, building her business and loving her family. There is nothing she cannot do … and if she can’t, then that is ok too.
Deb already has and will continue to face huge medical bills. If you would like to donate and support Deb and her family then head over to her Go Fund Page here.