Healthy mum left ‘completely unrecognisable’ by rare brain tumour

A fit and healthy mum-of-three was left "completely unrecognisable" after being diagnosed with a rare brain tumour.

Sara Crosland, 45, from Ellesmere Port, was told she had a vitamin D deficiency after she started suffering from pain in her hips that soon spread to every joint in her body.

But when her face started going numb and her vision became impaired, Sara who was aged 42 at the time, returned to the doctors for further tests.

She was soon transferred to hospital where an MRI scan revealed she had a large coustic neuroma brain tumour.

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Since then, Sara who was left profoundly deaf and with no balance on one side of her body, as a result of the tumour, has had to learn to walk again.

Thankfully she is now in recovery and has recently completed a 55km run to raise money for Brain Tumour Research and the British Acoustic Neuroma Association.

Sara told the ECHO: "When they told me they'd found something in my head it was a shock. I was totally numb and angry.

"I cried all the way home."

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During the tests doctors also found an abnormality on Sara's lungs, which she was later told was due to an autoimmune condition called Sarcoidosis.

In May 2018, Sara underwent an eight hour operation to remove the brain tumour at Salford Royal Hospital.

Sara said: "It was a huge ordeal but thankfully, a success, as my incredible neurosurgeons managed to remove 100% of the 3.5cm tumour. The craniotomy left me feeling like a completely different person, however.

"Prior to my diagnosis I was a fit and healthy mum-of-three, who enjoyed running, cycling, hiking and climbing.

"After the operation I found myself bedridden and completely unrecognisable from who I really was.

"I had horrific double vision and screaming tinnitus. It was horrendous.”

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In the days and weeks that followed her surgery, Sara underwent intensive physiotherapy and this has continued in varying degrees since, alongside occupational therapy and neuropsychology.

Five weeks after her operation Sara managed to ride 10 miles on her bike, despite being told by doctors that she might never be able to ride a bike again.

Sara said: "When I was diagnosed everything online was doom and gloom. There wasn't much positivity out there when you're looking for it.

"I want others to see how actually you can work on your health and fitness and get back to who you were before this.

"I’ve come such a long way in two years, having been determined from the start to not let this experience get the better of me."

She added: "Five weeks post-op, I managed to ride 10 miles on my bike, after medics told me I might never be able to cycle again.

"The following week I cycled 30 miles. Since I found my cycling legs, I’ve stopped at nothing to continue my journey onwards and upwards – quite literally!

"In September I joined a group of friends on a trek of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco.

"I’ve also completed a charity sky dive and I’ve got my photography business up and running again."

During lockdown Sara has finished writing a book about what she has been through which will be published later this year.

She said: Developing a positive mindset and setting goals has helped me overcome adversity to fulfil my dreams.”

Sara had been training to take on the Chester Half Marathon in May and a charity Lake District 100km Ultra Marathon Challenge in June, alongside her friend and fellow brain tumour survivor Danielle Gibbons.

The pair signed up for the event to raise money for Brain Tumour Research and the British Acoustic Neuroma Association (BANA).

However, the coronavirus pandemic meant that the both planned events were cancelled and so Sara had to reinvent her fundraising challenge to something she could do safely.

She said: “I had joked about doing it in the garden but realistically that just wasn’t feasible.

"I continued to train right the way through lockdown, so I knew I had to find a way to take on an alternative challenge and this was perfect, as I was all on my own, so social-distancing wasn’t an issue.

"I was supported by my husband Neil and friend Cerries, who met me at certain points along the route to replenish my water supplies and give me some much-needed moral support.”

Sara, who welcomed her first grandchild Rico into the world during lockdown, is now reflecting on the rollercoaster she has been on over the past couple of years.

Mum of three Sara Crosland, 45, from Ellesmere Port was diagnosed with a rare brain tumour

She said: “Recovering from brain surgery has been anything but plain sailing.

"The struggle is real, every single day. Completing this challenge marks a real milestone in my recovery and is a huge personal achievement.

“I ran 36 miles (it should have been 35 but I took a couple of wrong turns and diversions due to cows, mud and fallen trees) in 11 hours 26 minutes.

"When I hit my lowest point, I read messages on my phone to get me through the final 6km, which was the longest 6km of my life! I am so grateful to everyone who supported me and donated to this hugely important cause.”

So far she has raised £604.62 of her £1000 target for Brain Tumour Research. To donate click here.

Matthew Price, Brain Tumour Research’s Community Development Manager for the North said: “Sara’s commitment to fundraising after all that she has been through is truly remarkable and we can’t thank her enough for her efforts.

“With the cancellation and postponement of many of 2020’s big challenge events – including the Virgin Money London Marathon – we have been continually amazed by the myriad of different ways our supporters have responded to the challenge of finding new ways of raising money for Brain Tumour Research.”

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.

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