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When Liz Kirtley struggled to hear in one ear, she put it down to growing older.
The mother-of-two, 45, had suffered from gradual hearing loss for a number of years but thought nothing of it.
She was eventually spurred on to go for a hearing test when she could no longer use that ear while on a phone.
Her doctor referred her to an ear, nose and throat specialist in Oxford where she received devastating news.
Rather than suffering a problem with her ear., she was told she had an acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous growth on the part of the brain which helps to control hearing and balance.
‘I didn’t realise it was anything to worry about because I just thought it was old age as the hearing in my left ear was perfect,’ she said.
‘There are always things that you worry about and go to the doctors for but they turn out to be nothing.
‘When I was told I had a 2cm I was shocked as you just don’t think it would happen to you.
‘I thought ”that size sounds quite small” but when I looked at the scans I realised how big it seemed compared to my eyes which was very scary to see.’
Mrs Kirtley, from Luton, Bedfordshire, was diagnosed in late 2014 and given the option of having surgery or radiotherapy to shrink the mass.
The tumour, which is thought to have grown at a couple of millimetres a year, was found on the balance nerve in the canal from the ear to the brain, and expanded into her brain.
The mother to Isobel, 13, and Jocelyn, nine, and her husband Shaun opted for radiotherapy as the 10-hour operation would have taken more time to recover.
The procedure, which was carried out in Sheffield, involves targeting radiotherapy very precisely at the tumour.
Surgeons fitted a metal frame to her skull using metal pins to keep her head completely still during treatment.
She was given one dose of treatment while under local anaesthetic to ease the discomfort.
Doctors will perform annual scans to monitor the tumour, which has caused damage to the nerves in Mrs Kirtley’s face.
She still struggles with balance but says the tumour – which affects just 20 people in a million – could have been far worse if it was left untreated.
‘It is scary having something in your brain and people don’t know it is there,’ she said.
‘I try not to think about it still being there in my head but as I’m coming closer to my annual scan I’m starting to think about it again.
‘If I was not diagnosed it would have kept growing and eventually killed me because there’s not that much room in your head for a brain and a tumour.
‘It’s not going to kill me now but if the worse comes to worst and it doesn’t stop growing – they they will have to remove it.’
The rare benign brain tumour is called an acoustic neuroma and approximately 20 people out of one million are diagnosed with it.