YOUNG VOICES

Student Gemma Martin With 'Golf Ball-Sized' Brain Tumour Misdiagnosed With An Ingrown Toenail

Doctors missed the 22-year-old student's symptoms for six months.

31/03/2017 11:04 BST

A student who had a brain tumour the size of a golf ball was misdiagnosed with an ingrown toenail. 

Gemma Martin, 22, was left needing life-saving surgery to remove the tumour after doctors missed her symptoms for six months. 

The Strathclyde University student first noticed something was wrong in December 2014 when she experienced loss of feeling in her right leg.  

The Brain Tumour Charity
Gemma Martin had emergency surgery to remove a golf ball-sized brain tumour after doctors missed her symptoms for six months 

Martin said: “I woke up one morning and I had no feeling in my leg, it was terrifying.” 

While A&E doctors feared she could have meningitis, medics sent Martin home when tests for the infection came back clear, telling her she had just experienced a “funny turn”. 

But over the next few weeks, the numbness in her leg continued and she began to develop daily headaches and vomiting episodes. 

The Brain Tumour Charity
Martin was told her symptoms were down to an ingrown toenail 

Over the course of five months, I went to the doctors ten times,” the business and management student said. 

“In the end I was told that the ingrown toenail on my right foot was causing the loss of feeling in my right leg and that I should have it removed.  

“I had the toenail removed but it didn’t make a difference.” 

Martin continued: “The doctors suggested that the headaches were down to stress.

The Brain Tumour Charity
The 22-year-old's tumour was found when she had an eye-test for double vision 

“They prescribed me anti-depressants but my mum was very concerned about me taking them. I’d never felt depressed and I didn’t feel stressed, I just had all these symptoms that didn’t make any sense.” 

The student’s brain tumour was finally discovered when she visited an optician after developing double vision. 

The optician referred her for an emergency scan after noticing a large build up of pressure behind her eyes. 

Martin said: “It was such a shock, the doctors told my fiancé and family that if they didn’t operate immediately I would die.” 

The Brain Tumour Charity
Martin's family were told she could die if she didn't have the surgery immediately 

While the student recovered well from the surgery to remove the golf ball-sized tumour, she has since had a small reoccurrence. 

“Before I was diagnosed, I never believed I would ever have to deal with something so life changing, yet here I am,” she said. “Brain tumours do not discriminate.” 

Martin is now campaigning to support The Brain Tumour Charity’s #WearItOut bandana campaign to help fund for brain tumour research. 

The student said: “I hope my story raises awareness of brain tumours and the symptoms, it is so important for people to know the signs.

“If my symptoms had been picked up earlier maybe I wouldn’t have been put in such a life threatening situation.”

The Brain Tumour Society
The Strathclyde student is now raising awareness for The Brain Tumour Charity

The Brain Tumour Charity’s CEO Sarah Lindsell added: Our thoughts and best wishes go to Gemma and her family, she is an inspirational young woman.

“We are immensely grateful to Gemma for sharing her story to raise awareness around the symptoms of brain tumours.

“We receive no government funding and rely 100% on voluntary donations, so it’s only through the efforts of Gemma and others like her that we can work towards our twin goals of doubling survival and halving the harm caused by brain tumours,” Lindsell continued. 

“Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and people under 40 in the UK and survival rates have not improved significantly over the last 40 years. This must change.”

For more information about The Brain Tumour Charity and its campaign, click here.