A Canadian woman says she lost her job, her home and custody of her two children after doctors failed to diagnosed a brain tumor for two years.
Rebecca Birnie, from Moosonee, Ontario, visited the doctor dozens of times after experiencing non-stop headaches, slurred speech and seizures.
She was prescribed painkillers and ibuprofen and was sent home, reported CTV News.
It wasn’t until Birnie, 38, collapsed in her mother’s home and was rushed to the hospital that doctors discovered she had a ‘life-threatening’ benign brain tumor that had been growing for years.
Rebecca Birnie, 38 (pictured), from Moosonee, Ontario, Canada, was experiencing headaches, slurred speech and seizures
Birnie (left and right) visited doctors 23 times over two years, but was only prescribed painkillers. She lost her job after her colleagues believed she had developed a drug problem
Birnie says that when her symptoms began in 2014, her colleagues believed she was using drugs, reported CTV News.
She underwent several drug tests but, despite all of them coming back negative, she lost her job.
She visited her local hospital 23 times but her symptoms were dismissed as side effects of headaches.
During this time, Birnie also lost custody of her twin sons – but has since regained custody.
‘I was sick and I felt no one was listening,’ she told CTV News. ‘I had nowhere to turn and I had lost all hope to that point. I didn’t even want to be here anymore.’
In July 2016, after nearly two years of misdiagnoses, Birnie collapsed while visiting her mother.
An ambulance rushed her to Weeneebayko Area Health Authority, where she asked doctors to perform a CT scan.
She was transferred to a hospital in Timmins, about 200 miles away, where scans showed a tumor measuring six centimeters.
Doctors believe it had been growing for at least 10 years, according to CTV News.
‘I felt vindicated [because] there was a reason behind the way I was acting,’ she said.
She also lost custody of twins sons during this time. Pictured: Birnie in the hospital
In July 2016, she was rushed to the hospital after she collapsed in her mother’s house. Pictured: A scan of Birnie’s brain and tumor
Birnie was diagnosed with meningioma, which is a tumor of the meninges or the tissue that surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
This is the same type of tumor that TV and radio host Maria Menounos had as well as US women’s soccer star Lauren Holiday.
However, it is classified as a brain tumor because it puts pressure on cranial nerves. The tumor generally forms in the head and about 85 percent of cases are benign.
Because the tumors are slow-growing, a patient can live with a meningioma for years before it’s spotted.
Symptoms typically include blurry vision, painful headaches, loss of hearing, memory loss and loss of smell.
If the tumor is asymptomatic, doctors may recommended regular monitoring with brain scans.
However, if the tumor is growing or symptoms begin to develop, patients mar require surgery to remove all, or most, of the mass.
If the tumor is cancerous, radiation may be used to kill cancer cells or on parts of the mass the surgeon was unable to remove.
Doctors diagnosed Birnie with meningioma, a benign brain tumor that had been growing for at least 10 years. Pictured: Birnie with her sons
Birnie (left and right) had her tumor removed at Health Sciences North in Sudbury. She is now back working and regain custody of her children
Dr Ryan DeMarchi, a neurosurgeon at Health Sciences North in Sudbury, who removed Birnie’s tumor, described her condition to CTV News as ‘life-threatening’.
‘There is no question that this is a very large brain tumor which required a challenging and very invasive brain operation to remove,’ he told the network.
‘This would be one of the largest tumors that I’ve operated on.’
Doctors are unsure what caused Birnie’s tumor – which was benign – and say it has about a 10 percent risk of recurring.
Following her surgery, the mother-of-two lost some of her vision and need to relearn how to walk.
However, she is currently working again and has regained custody of her sons. It’s unclear why she lost custody in the first place.
Birnie told CTV News that she hopes she can inspire others to be their own advocate if they believe something is wrong.
‘I don’t want this to happen to anyone else,’ she said. ‘It’s been awful. It’s been hell and I think people need to advocate for themselves and if they know something is wrong to pursue that and don’t just let it go.’