Woman’s nightmare after ‘panic attacks’ turn out to be massive brain tumour

Catherine Wilcockson, 38, first noticed something was wrong after forgetting where she was while watching her daughter’s nativity play.

Catherine Wilcockson's tumour had been growing for 20 years
Catherine Wilcockson’s tumour had been growing for 20 years

A woman was diagnosed with a large brain tumour after she was misdiagnosed as suffering from panic attacks.

Catherine Wilcockson, from Handsworth, Sheffield, first noticed something was wrong in 2018 when she forgot where she was while watching her daughter in a nativity play.

The 38-year-old said she “went all funny” and stood up disoriented – but then forced herself to sit back down in her seat and ‘pull herself together’, YorkshireLive reports.

Speaking about that night, Catherine said “They were dancing and singing and I just went really funny, I didn’t know where I was and I even stood up, but didn’t know any of the parents because we were new to the school.

“I didn’t know where I was but just thought ‘get yourself together’ so sat back down, but from that day onwards I had that every single day – I was driving like it, working like it.”

Worried about these “out of body experiences”, Catherine, a mum of three, said that she rang her GP and was told that the most likely diagnosis was anxiety and panic attacks.

“My doctor put me down as having some form of panic attack and asked me to come and see her, she prescribed me something for panic attacks but, as soon as I started taking that, it just got worse”, said Catherine, who eventually had her dose of the medication increased.

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What she and her doctor did not know, however, was that the medication was making her worse because it is not supposed to be used in people who have fits – and Catherine’s ‘panic attacks’ were exactly that.

Catherine, her daughter and her colleagues fundraising for Brain Tumour Research


Brain Tumour Research)

Catherine was experiencing seizures not panic attacks


Brain Tumour Research)

“It was seizures I was having, not panic attacks”, Catherine said.

But it was not until May 2019 that Catherine found out this vital piece of information.

Her symptoms had come to a head after she had lost lots of weight and noticed changes in her personality but, not wanting to worry her children, Catherine was determined to just “get on with daily life”.

But on the evening of May 14, 2019 she had a huge seizure, which left her needing to be admitted to hospital.

Catherine’s daughter, Shani, who was just nine-years-old at the time, found her mum on the floor and with an injured face, as Catherine had knocked herself on a plug socket as she was fitting.

“She [Shani] is now needing to have art therapy for it”, Catherine said, “she won’t stay in the house on her own with me, which you can understand as she was only nine at the time.

“Luckily I’ve got three girls and my other daughter, who is now 18, phoned my dad and he came round and took me to hospital.

“She said it was awful and she told me ‘we couldn’t even look at you’.”

When Catherine arrived in hospital and came round, she said to doctors ‘I’ve got a brain tumour haven’t I?’ and, just a few minutes later, doctors confirmed that they had found a “massive” tumour – the size of an apple.

“When my daughter came in [to the room] I just looked at her little face and there were tears just rolling down her face”, Catherine said.

Doctors told Catherine that her tumour had likely been with her for the last 20 years, growing in size over that time, and she had to have a nine-hour craniotomy procedure – during which she was completely conscious.

Catherine has also had to have rounds of intense radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which she said have helped to dramatically shrink the tumour.

“It shrunk to a dot, but they’ve said it’ll grow back”, Catherine said.

Luckily for Catherine though, she is now able to manage her symptoms with regular check ups and by taking medication which keeps things under control.

And she is now focusing on raising money for the Brain Tumour Research charity.

Her and her colleagues at Sistachic hair salon in Sheffield recently took part in the ‘Wear a Christmas Hat’ Day for the charity and Catherine has so far raised £3,000 for the charity.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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