A MERIDEN mum of five who was told by doctors she was menopausal despite living with an undetected brain tumour has launched a fundraising mission.
Karen Yardley, aged 52, was being mistakenly treated for the menopause for more than two years when she received a call from her doctors saying she had a large tumour.
Since recovered, she is embarking on multiple charity ventures to raise money for brain tumour research and treatment – including a fundraising day in Meriden this month.
In 2015, Karen began to endure increasingly severe headaches and intense fatigue.
Eventually her symptoms became so acute that she began to experience blurred vision and difficulty walking.
Doctors prescribed her anti-depressants and hormone treatment – designed to relieve menopausal symptoms – without any tangible results.
She said: “I realised almost immediately that my symptoms were not the menopause – I knew something was wrong.
“But the professionals give you their advice and obviously you believe them.
“The last straw was having a blackout and losing the strength in my legs in Solihull town centre.
“I was determined not to let myself fall – I clung on to a ledge with all my strength.
“Finally after many doctors appointments begging to see a neurologist, I was referred.”
After eventual referral she was diagnosed with a sphenoid wing meningioma – a dangerously large brain tumour – in March last year.
It had grown to a startling size which threatened her life but luckily it was not cancerous.
She received life-saving surgery three months later at Coventry’s University Hospital in which a large part of her skull was removed and replaced with a metal plate.
She was prescribed a drug called Dexamethazone upon diagnosis for five months which heavily altered her appearance.
She said: “Telling my family was devastating. I listened with a breaking heart to their reaction – you never want to experience that.
“I think it’s different when it’s your brain. It is so complex and important – you can’t replace your brain.
“The treatment destroys you and people need to realise the repercussions.
“I had such a zest for life but I’m not who I was anymore – that person has gone.”
Karen has set her sights on a daring charity abseil down the Orbit – a 115-metre-high sculpture and observation tower in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in London – for which she has raised nearly £1,000.
She has also arranged a fundraising fun-day in Meriden to which she expects close to 1,000 people to attend.
The funds raised will be donated to The Brain Tumour Charity, a national charity dedicated to research and treatment of brain tumours.
For her fun day, Karen has organised for three local bands to perform, raffle prizes and a barbecue to provide fresh food.
The fun day has received raffle prize donations from Ryebrook Mini and Birmingham Motorcycle Museum among others.
Other sponsorships include the West Midlands Police, DMC motorcycles – a Kawasaki bike dealership in Birmingham – and the historic Meriden motorcycle company Triumph.
Karen was a keen biker before falling ill and she has arranged for eight Kawasaki motorcycles to be on show.
Karen says she does not want another family to have to go through what she and her family endured.
She said: “The reason I’m doing this is to raise money and awareness of brain tumours and their terrible consequences.
“I decided I was not prepared to let anyone else go through what myself and my family had been through and while I still had breath I would try to bring more awareness for GPs who may not immediately recognise symptoms of a brain tumour.
“No one knows for sure, how, why or who these tumours will affect so early diagnosis is key.
“Knowledge of them for GPs is key but all of this costs money and brain tumour research is very poorly funded compared to other diseases.”
The fun day will take place on May 27 at the Heart of England Social Club on the Berkswell Road in Meriden.
Her sponsored abseil will take place on June 9 and her abseil partner will be The Brain Tumour Charity chief executive, Sarah Lindsell.
Ms Lindsell has recently appeared on national television to talk about the condition and helped arrange a House of Lords debate in January on evaluating cancer treatments and improving life expectancy for sufferers.