Happily flicking through wedding magazines and planning her dream day were something Chelsea Yeomans feared she would never experience.
Exam stress, puberty and even anaemia had been blamed as the cause of Chelsea’s agonising headaches, which started when she was just 14.
Now 24, Chelsea said: “The pain slowly became worse.
“At first I thought it was due to exam stress as I was coming up to my GCSEs, and I just put up with it.
“But as the pain became increasingly severe, I went to a GP who referred me to hospital.
“I was told I had anaemia and it was probably due to my hormones – but I just knew there was something seriously wrong with me.
“I felt very low and upset because no one seemed to believe me – it felt like no one was listening.”
But when she woke up one morning in 2014, screaming in agony, vomiting uncontrollably and unable to even lift her head from the pillow, her mum rushed her to her GP.
Chelsea said: “I was being violently sick so my mum called the GP to make an emergency appointment, which I got straight away as the receptionist could hear my screams.
“The doctor knew something was very wrong as he only had to lightly touch the back of my head and I screamed in pain.”
Chelsea was sent straight to her local hospital for a CT scan, which revealed a 6cm mass on her brain.
She was later admitted to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.
The bride-to-be said: “I was so scared – I convinced myself it was cancer and I was going to die.
“My parents were terrified, too.”
Two days later, she underwent a seven-hour operation when 90 per cent of the orange-sized tumour was removed.
Biopsy tests revealed it was a low grade (non-cancerous) pilocytic astrocytoma.
Chelsea said: “I was told I was two weeks away from paralysis from the waist down as the tumour was pressing on my spinal cord.”
After surgery, Chelsea needed to take six months off work
“Getting over surgery was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. I had to learn to walk again, to spell and even to cut up my food.”
“My parents were such a support and I’d never have accomplished all that without them.
Love was the last thing on her mind and because of everything she had been through, Chelsea feared she would never meet someone who could accept her as she was.
That changed in an instant when she had her first date with Michael, also 24, in January 2017, after meeting him on an online dating app.
She said: “I had no confidence and was convinced no one would be interested in me as soon as I told them I had a brain tumour.
“Why would anyone take the risk of getting involved with me in case I got ill again? I was also terribly self-conscious about my scars.
“I was convinced I was never going to have anyone in my life or experience getting married and having children.”
But auditor Michael dispelled that fear when Chelsea decided to be upfront with him right from the start.
She said: “We’d been chatting online and a week before our first date, I told him I had a brain tumour.
“I wanted to be honest straight away and give him a chance to back off.
“He wasn’t fazed at all and told me a brain tumour was only part of me and that it didn’t define me.”
On their first date, Chelsea and Michael went for a meal and then to the cinema.
She said: “I just knew immediately we were going to be serious.
“And I loved the first question he asked me, ‘If you could choose anywhere in the world to go, where would it be?’
“I replied, ‘Iceland to see the Northern Lights.’
“It felt like I’d always known Michael and I trusted him implicitly straight away. That was it, we were a couple.”
Within three months, Chelsea, who has now also become a Young Ambassador with The Brain Tumour Charity moved into his parents’ house before they moved out to rent their own place in July 2017.
She said: “We threw ourselves in at the deep end and have been blissfully happy ever since.
“Michael is so kind and supportive.
“He comes to appointments with me and looks after me when I’m feeling ill.”
And he has boosted Chelsea’s confidence.
She said: “Michael immediately accepted me for me.
“He tells I’m beautiful every day and I tell him not to be a softie!”
Chelsea, an administrator for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), now has scans every two years.
Thankfully they have revealed no growth in the 10 per cent of tumour surgeons had to leave behind due to its position.
Her latest stable scan was in May.
The couple had been together for just over a year when Michael proposed at a gig in April last year.
She explained: “He said, ‘What would you like to do for the rest of your life?’” said Chelsea.
“I replied. ‘Spend it with you.’ Then he asked, ‘Will you marry me?’
“I was surprised he proposed so soon, but I didn’t have one ounce of doubt. I burst into tears and gasped, ‘yes!’
The couple, who live in the West Midlands, have set a wedding date – September 5 next year, followed by a three-week honeymoon in Florida.
Chelsea’s role as a Young Ambassador with The Brain Tumour Charity and helping to raise awareness about the charity’s HeadSmart campaign – which highlights possible brain tumour symptoms – has also made her blossom.
She appeared on Eamonn Holmes and Ruth Langsford’s live Channel 5 show Do The Right Thing, talking about HeadSmart, as her devoted fiancé waited backstage for her.
Chelsea said: “I was incredibly nervous but Michael kept me calm behind the scenes.
“He also came along with me to my first meet-up for young people living with brain tumours, organised by the charity.
“I felt anxious about going as it was a big step for me to share what I’d been through with other people.
“But it was so helpful talking to others my age who are facing similar challenges.
“I want to do my bit to help others – and I’d urge people to go to the meet-ups with an open mind and heart – as you get so much out of it.”
Now Chelsea is determined to make the most of life.
She said: “Although it took me years to get diagnosed, I count myself as one of the lucky ones.
“And I feel blessed to have found someone so special to share my life with.
“Everything I’ve been through has made me stronger and now I feel I can take on anything – with Michael at my side.”
Interview: Carol Dyce. Originally published on The Daily Mirror