Mum's 'scary' diagnosis after blaming tiredness on panic attacks

A single mum of three has urged panic attack sufferers to “fully investigate” their symptoms after hers were revealed to be caused by a brain tumour. 

Catherine Wilcockson dismissed her general tiredness for a year until she had a panic attack that felt like a terrifying out-of-body experience at her daughter's nativity play in December last year.

“It was as if I was watching the play from a location outside my body. It was really scary but I managed to pull myself together and focus,” she said.

“I had to reassure myself - 'Catherine, you're sat here, you're watching Shani's play.’ I didn't feel real.”

The hairdresser’s doctor initially believed the 36 year old was suffering from derealisation - a mental disorder that creates a sense of disconnection from the world - and prescribed her antidepressants.

But the pills didn't work and Catherine, from Sheffield, South Yorks, had repeat attacks daily until she suffered a huge seizure, falling and hitting her head in front of her daughters Shani, nine, and Christie, 16, in May.

Catherine Wilcockson dismissed her general tiredness for a year until she had a panic attack that felt like a terrifying out-of-body experience at her daughter's nativity play in December last year. Source: Kennedy News

An ambulance rushed her to Northern General Hospital where a CT scan revealed a brain tumour the size of an apple.

On June 18, Ms Wilcockson went under the knife and surgeons were able to remove 80 percent of the tumour - but she is still at risk of it growing back.

Most shockingly,  Ms Wilcockson says she suspected she had a brain tumour in her early 20s and has since learned it could have began growing when she was just six years old.

“I had a feeling I had a brain tumour for many years. I started telling my parents in about my early 20s,” she said.

“Nothing major happened to me but I can remember when I was a child getting up at night and I'd just go the toilet and be sick and then I'd get back in bed. That happened quite a few times to me a few months apart. I was about ten.”

Ms Wilcockson said her symptoms worsened in the last two years.

Doctors were able to remove 80 percent of the tumour from her brain. Source: Kennedy News

“I'd been down - the tumour must have affected my speech and my emotions. My mum said to my sister 'there's something not right with Catherine’,” she said. 

The mum is now calling on patients and doctors “to be more aware” after she realised that her symptoms matched those of common mental illnesses.

“I watched videos about how people [with mental illnesses such as derealisation and panic attacks] felt and it totally matched how I felt,” she said.

“After what I've been through with [the misdiagnosis], I'd advise others to get somebody to obviously fully investigate into how they're feeling because you only get one brain.”

Matthew Price, Brain Tumour Research community fundraising manager for the north of England, said less than 20 percent of people diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50 percent across all cancers.

“We cannot allow this desperate situation to continue,” he said. 

- Kennedy News

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