Viviana Baldassarre, 43, from Bedford first began having symptoms in January last year. She had a nasty toothache for a few weeks so she went to see her dentist. However, she was referred to Bedford Hospital for further investigation into what was causing her pain, which she says was becoming unbearable.
Viviana soon had a number of scans and she was sent home after being told she would hear within two weeks. Just four days later, the medical team contacted her and, at an appointment, she was told that she had a brain tumour in January 2021.
Viviana said: “I am quite a bubbly and confident person – people often tell me that I am funny. But, everything changed, I was in so much pain and then my world came crashing down when I was diagnosed. It was absolutely the worst news of my life.
“I didn’t know then just how serious it was or what was going to happen to me. I felt like I was numb and in the dark about what I could be facing or what treatment I could have.”
Viviana was referred to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge for a consultation with the Ear, Nose and Throat team. She was told that she needed surgery which could possibly leave her with hearing loss. She also needed a skin graft from her leg to cover where the surgery would be carried out. Thankfully, all of the tumour was successfully removed. Viviana now has annual scans for any signs of regrowth which have so far been clear.
She had a 15-hour operation on 15th March which successfully removed all of the low-grade tumour, which was confirmed to be a schwannoma or also called an acoustic neuroma. This is typically a slow-growing and rarely life-threatening tumour type for which Viviana had the classic symptoms of including hearing and balance problems.
Viviana added: “I knew that this operation was a huge hurdle in this horrible nightmare for me and I had to find the strength to get through it. It was such a delicate procedure but my surgeon was amazing and I am so thankful for that.
“I have had to adopt a slightly different lifestyle now – I have lost the hearing in my right ear so I wear two hearing aids and I have some issues with my balance too. But, I am grateful to be here every day and to have survived this ordeal.”
Viviana was given a leaflet about The Brain Tumour Charity when she was first diagnosed but she found it very difficult to do so and to accept what was happening to her. After her treatment, she did pick it back up and then reached out to the Charity to find out how she could get involved.
Viviana held a fundraising coffee morning in March 2022, during Brain Tumour Awareness Month, and also to mark the one year anniversary of her surgery. She raised £1309 for The Brain Tumour Charity, which will be ploughed into research to find a cure as well as providing help, information and support for anyone affected by a brain tumour diagnosis.
Viviana said: “I knew that I needed to give something back and raising such an amazing amount of money was an amazing achievement for me. The work of The Brain Tumour Charity is very close to my heart so I hope to be able to continue supporting them.
“The Brain Tumour Charity put me on the right road. The team have made me feel at such ease and gave me the right advice which I found so helpful.
“My diagnosis has helped me to realise that you have to be positive in life, to move on and forwards when things like this happen and to go for whatever you want to achieve in life. I am lucky that I am able to do just that.”
The Brain Tumour Charity’s new campaign Better Safe Than Tumour aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumours in children and adults. Find out more here.