A 32-year-old woman was told a rare tumour in her spine was a “sprain” in her leg at first.
Sarah Matthews, from Warrington, first started experiencing the pain in her left calf in about 2018. She described it as a “burning” and “shooting” sensation which only happened at night.
Sarah explained how the only way she was able to get ease from the pain was to walk about her flat “for hours.” Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, she said: “It was only ever in my left calf, never in any other part of my body. Never my right leg, it was always affecting my left leg.
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“It used to be this burning, shooting sensation and whenever I got that pain, I couldn’t sit down, sit still with my legs straight. I literally had to walk around my flat for hours. As soon as I sat down again, I could feel this sensation and it was absolutely agonising. I would be walking around my flat for about four hours from 1am to 5am, just aimlessly while my partner at the time was trying to sleep.
“I would just be walking around as this was the only way I would get some relief from it. I would try and put a hot water bottle on it and initially thought it was restless leg syndrome or something or some sort of sciatica.”
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It took two and a half years of Sarah suffering from the pain before she was able to figure out what it was. At the time she was living in London and claims her doctors told her because she hadn’t done any exercise which could have caused this pain, they sent Sarah away and put the pain she was suffering down to a sprain.
When Sarah moved back to Warrington she said the pain was “at an all time high” and went to speak to doctors again. At MRI scan confirmed she had a tumour on her spine called schwannoma – this is a rare type of tumour which forms in the nervous system, affecting fewer than 200,000 people.
The 32-year-old was then referred to The Walton Centre in Liverpool and told she was at risk of becoming paralysed because the tumour was pressing and growing on her spine. On December 2, last year, she had an operation to have the tumour removed – only 12 weeks after being diagnosed.
She told the ECHO: “They said the pain I had been getting was essentially nerve pain and nerve damage from it pressing on my spinal cord. The pain I was getting was my sciatic nerve.” Sarah’s operation was a success and the tumour in her spine was benign.
However, the 32-year-old now faces an 18 to 24 month recovery and has been left with nerve damage. She said: “Due to how intense the surgery was and because it’s the spine and there was nerve damage involved – so I still have nerve damage in my left leg and in my groin area, which I didn’t have before and was caused by the surgery – they basically said it could take 18 to 24 months before you recover.
“And basically anything which hasn’t fixed itself in that time is unlikely to fix itself.” Due to the tumours feeding on nerve endings, Sarah said she had to sacrifice one of her nerves in her spinal column during surgery, which has left her with damage.
After her surgery, her friends had to help her with day-to-day tasks and she says she still struggled to walk long distances, lift anything heavy or stretch to reach things higher up, five months after her surgery. Sarah said she is “determined” to stay positive.
She said: “I always try and see the positive in things and I know people out there go through way worse. It’s just one of those, if you don’t stay positive it will just eat you up.
“The pain is honestly is one of the most physically painful things I have experienced in my life and I have endometriosis and that was quite high on the pain threshold dealing with the cramps and the back pain with that, but this is next level.”
Sarah has set up a GoFundMe page to help with costs during her recovery. To donate to the fundraising please click here.