Nurse Chantal Smits spends her days working with patients with brain tumors – but only realized she too was suffering from a tumor after spotting a poster at work.
The now-22-year-old started suffering minor symptoms like headaches in her first year as a nursing student in 2014. She felt tired all the time and used to fall asleep almost as soon as her daily shift was over. Smits took painkillers to ease the pain but didn’t think it was bad enough to see a doctor.
Fast forward four years and Smits was living with her boyfriend of two years and had qualified as a neurology anesthetic nurse at St. George’s Hospital in England. Every day she assists surgeons operating on patients with brain tumors. By this time, she was suffering crippling headaches almost every day and taking multiple painkillers daily to manage the pain.
It wasn’t until February 2018 when she was reading a poster on the hospital wall, listing the signs and symptoms of brain tumors in young people and children, that Smits realized what might be wrong with her. After speaking with her family doctor, she was sent for non-urgent tests, being referred to the same consultant whom she worked with most days. Following an MRI scan, Smits learned she had a large mass on her brain stem.
Smits has since been diagnosed with a brain stem glioma tumor. It’s currently inoperable and incurable. The good news is, her tumor is stable and is not currently growing. The bad news is, because of its position on her brain stem, it cannot be biopsied. This means nobody can tell her yet whether or not it’s cancerous.