A woman discovered that she had a brain tumour after she started producing breast milk despite not being pregnant.
Science teacher Amy Anderson was told she would not be able to have kids - but has defied the odds to become a mum three times over.
Amy, 41, from Ashby was told in 2007 she might be left infertile after medics spotted the tumour which was making her lactate.
She told Leicestershire Live : “It was very strange. My hormones were all over the place.
“I’d also been getting headaches and migraines but when I started lactating, I knew something really wasn’t right.
To donate to Brain Tumour Research via Amy’s fundraising page click here
“When the doctors discovered I had a pituitary adenoma, they said it was so large, I would need surgery quickly, as it was pressing on the nerves behind my eyes.
“Devastatingly, I was also told that it meant it was very unlikely that I would ever have children, as the pituitary influences many processes including reproduction.
“I was really upset by this news; my husband James and I had got married the previous year and we were trying for a baby.”
But Amy’s heartbreak ended, when, in February 2008 she discovered she was expecting her first baby.
“I was due to be having surgery to remove the tumour but my pregnancy meant that the operation had to be put on hold,” she said.
“I was thrilled to have fallen pregnant but I had to be closely monitored throughout, with frequent scans and blood tests. Being pregnant can produce hormones, that can worsen the symptoms and even cause the tumour to grow. It was an anxious time.”
Amy gave birth to a healthy baby girl, Amelia, in November 2008.
“My consultant was keen to get on with the surgery as soon after I gave birth as possible but I was breastfeeding and didn’t want to have to stop for the operation,” she said.
“When Amelia was nearly six months old, I began to wean her off breastmilk in preparation for my op.”
Unfortunately, before her scheduled surgery, in May 2009, Amy suddenly lost her eyesight and suffered an excruciating headache. She had to call an ambulance to take her to Queen’s Hospital Burton.
She said: “When I got to hospital, they discovered the tumour had ruptured and, on 16 May, I was transferred to Royal Stoke University Hospital for emergency surgery. They removed as much of the tumour as possible, through my nasal cavity.
“It was an horrendous situation. I felt so vulnerable, not being able to see properly. On top of that, it was the first time I’d been separated from Amelia.
“I missed her so much. Thankfully, the surgery was a success but it took a while for me to regain my sight and to recover from the surgery.”
Amy was told that following her surgery, her pituitary functions could be lost and she was likely to have diabetes insipidus for the rest of her life. She was also warned that the treatment would probably cause infertility.
“The diabetes is manageable – it just involves taking three tablets a day.,” she said.
“My vision mostly returned to normal, although my peripheral vision still isn’t what it used to be.
“It was a huge blow being told that we wouldn’t have any more children. James and I always wanted to have a big family.”
Just three months after her surgery, Amy was delighted to discover that she was pregnant again.
She said: “Having been told that I was unlikely to fall pregnant again, we were thrilled to be expecting our second child. Once again, I was closely monitored throughout but I had a healthy pregnancy and Freddie was born on 9 April 2010, without any complications”.
The next year was hectic, as Amy was mother to a baby and a toddler but health-wise, things remained stable.
However, when her headaches returned in May 2011, she was scanned and the images revealed the tumour had re-grown.
Amy said: “They didn’t deem it necessary to operate on immediately, and I was put on ‘watch and wait’ .
"By 2013, however, the tumour had grown to the point that it was impacting healthy brain tissue and encasing my carotid artery.
“I was referred back to the team in Stoke and they decided the plan of action was further surgery, followed by radiotherapy to try to stop any further growth.”
Amy was once again warned that the treatment was likely to affect her fertility and although she and James were very happy with the two children they had, this warning prompted the couple to consider having a third baby.
“It was like history repeating itself when, in January 2014, I discovered I was pregnant,” she said.
“We couldn’t believe it, especially having been told that our chances of conception were very low. It seemed to cause panic among the consultants, as yet again my surgery had to be postponed. Matilda was born on 13 Oct 2014 and our family was complete.”
Amy’s second surgery, in May 2015, was a riskier procedure than the first. They managed to remove 90% of the tumour but couldn’t get to all of it, as her brain membranes were exposed.
“Thankfully, I recovered well from surgery and in 2016, I was told I was a candidate for gamma knife treatment at National Centre for Stereotactic Radiosurgery in Sheffield,” she said.
“It has a high success rate and is non-invasive, so I was really pleased to be eligible.
“What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was the horrendous experience of having a metal frame fitted to my head, in preparation for the treatment.
“I had to have four injections of local anaesthetic - two in my temple and two in the back of my head. It was the most painful thing I’ve ever had to endure and the pressure of the frame caused my head to feel like it was going to explode.”
After six hours of waiting with her frame secured in place, a nurse came to tell Amy that the results from her MRI scan revealed the tumour was too big for the gamma knife to be viable.
She said:“I couldn’t believe it. They removed my frame, which caused more pain and a lot of bleeding, then it was on to plan b - six weeks of daily radiotherapy at Royal Derby Hospital.
“I hated wearing the mask, as it was so claustrophobic but I knew it was necessary to ensure the radiation was accurately targeting the tumour. The plus side has been that I got to keep my mask and I now use it as a prop in lessons when I’m teaching GCSE physics!”
Since finishing her treatment, Amy’s consultant has been told the tumour is unlikely to grow back. She continues to be monitored with annual MRI scans and she meets regularly with the endocrine nurse at Royal Stoke.
“In spite of all I’ve been though, I really do feel lucky,” said Amy.
“Recently, a school mum friend of mine in her mid-thirties was diagnosed with multiple brain tumours, after suffering from headaches. She was told it was terminal but started radiotherapy, to try to extend her life.
“She began the treatment on Monday 26 April but, tragically, died two days later, leaving behind an 11-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son.”
Motivated by this tragic loss and her own experience of having a brain tumour, Amy is joining thousands of other fundraisers around the country, by taking part in Jog 26 Miles in May to raise money for Brain Tumour Research.
The miles can be completed however and with whoever participants like, ensuring they follow Covid-19 safety guidelines.
Amy said: “I enjoy running but haven’t been doing as much as I’d like in recent months. When I heard about my friend, I knew I just had to do something. I’m aiming to run two miles every other day. It’s going to be hard-going but I just put my music on and try to enjoy half an hour of time on my own while I’m out clocking up the miles.”
To donate to Brain Tumour Research via Amy’s fundraising page visit www.facebook.com/donate/753638478680463