A lucky schoolgirl suffered a stroke that actually saved her life after doctors found a rare deadly brain tumour that could have killed her.
Charli Evans, 15, had been in constant pain for two years and endured crippling headaches and completely lost her appetite.
Playground bullies teased her about her shrinking size and a dietician said she was suffering from an eating disorder.
But despite repeated visits to her doctor and specialists Charli’s tumour was only detected after she suffered a stroke and collapsed at home.
Doctors told her parents Carol and Andrew, 43, that if she hadn’t suffered the attack the two-inch tumour would have remained undetected and could have killed her.
Charli had an eight-and-a-half hour emergency operation to remove the growth – with no guarantee of survival – and is now on the road to recovery.
She said yesterday (Fri): ” I just thought ’15-year-olds don’t have strokes’. It was horrible but it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.
“I can’t really remember the stroke but I remember being scared and shouting.
“I had pins and needles in my arm, then it spread to my leg, then my face, then I couldn’t feel my tongue.
“When the doctor told me the worst possible scenario would be a brain tumour, I didn’t take it in. I didn’t think it was a possibility.”
Mum Carol, 47, said: “It was a nightmare. You think that these things happen to somebody else, you never think that it could happen to you.
“The type of tumour that Charli had – haemangioblastoma ([corr] – was uncommon and usually forms on the kidneys or the liver so doctors were baffled to find it on the brain.
“They’d never seen it there before.
“They told us that if it wasn’t for the stroke then it wouldn’t have been detected.”
Charli’s health problems started in October 2010 when she was just 13.
She was taken to the family doctor near her home in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, complaining of a loss of appetite and a lack of energy and was diagnosed with glandular fever.
But her condition deteriorated and her weight dropped dramatically.
The Lasswade High School pupil was constantly tired and had to give up playing football as training sessions became too much.
Charli tearfully recalled: “It was gradual. It started off with me not wanting to eat breakfast then I wouldn’t want to eat lunch and then I wouldn’t want to eat anything on a daily basis.
“I didn’t want to do anything, I didn’t want to go anywhere and I didn’t want to see anyone. I didn’t feel well enough to go out. It was horrible.
“I just got thinner and thinner. I used to get teased every day and I didn’t want to get changed for P.E. because people looked at me funny.
“I was sick of people telling me that I had an eating disorder and that I had an issue with food.”
The real cause of Charli’s condition only emerged after her stroke last September when an MRI scan revealed a benign two-inch tumour growing upwards towards her skull.
She has since gained over two stone in weight, rediscovered her appetite and is attending school a few days per week.
Carol, a security officer at Edinburgh University, said: “People need to be aware that just because kids are young doesn’t mean that they want to look like size-zero models.
“The stigma of kids not eating because they want to be thin and like models is not always the case.
“Looking back I feel relieved. As a mother I’m delighted that she is back with all her friends and doing what she has wanted to do for the past two years.
“Our life has changed as a family and we take every day as it comes. I know it can only get better now.”
Around 4,300 benign tumours of the central nervous system are diagnosed each year in the UK but of these only two in 100 are haemangioblastomas.
Martin Ledwick, head information nurse at Cancer Research UK, said: “It’s important that any symptoms in children are taken seriously and any unexplained symptoms should be investigated if they persist.
“But the signs of brain tumours can be quite vague and hard to identify and most GPs and A&E departments will hardly ever see a case.”