Chorley teacher returns to classroom following shock brain tumour diagnosis
The teacher is now back in the classroom after emergency surgery in November.
Lucy Gallagher, 29, had an emergency operation to remove a rare brain tumour in November 2020, after she became unwell at school.
Now, Lucy is supporting national charity Brain Tumour Research on 'Wear A Hat Day' at Essa Academy, Bolton.
Lucy wants to raise money for the charity as she continues to come to terms with her own shock diagnosis.
“I have suffered from migraines for years but they were always put down to having a busy, stressful job," she said.
“On November 16, I was about to teach a lesson when I felt a migraine coming on - I thought I’d just try to power through."
But Lucy's symptoms were more than a migraine and she started to lose sight in her left eye.
"I told the kids to get a teacher if I became really unwell," she said, "By the end of the lesson, the left side of my body had started to go numb.
"I went to sit in a quiet room and someone put out a radio call for a first-aider."
Fellow staff came to Lucy's aid and the headteacher decided to call an ambulance.
Paramedics took Lucy to Royal Bolton Hospital, where she was told she needed to see a doctor.
“They checked everything, including my eyes and they thought I might have optic nerve swelling (papilledema)," said the religious studies teacher.
"Eventually, the doctor came and explained they’d found what looked like a cyst on my brain.”
Lucy was transferred to Salford Royal Hospital in an ambulance but had to go alone due to strict COVID-19 restrictions.
"It was just so tough having to go through it all on my own," Lucy said.
“I rang my head of department, as I knew she would be really supportive.
"I was very upset and cried to her on the phone but she managed to calm me down and reassure me.
"When I called my mum, I could tell she was really concerned but was trying not to cry.
At Salford Royal, Lucy was treated and taken into theatre the same day to drain excess fluid in her brain.
The next day she had an MRI scan and doctors told her she could have a rare tumour known as a colloid cyst.
Lucy said: “They explained what they thought it was but I wouldn’t know for sure until they had operated and performed a biopsy.
"Two days later, on 18 November 18, I had endoscopic surgery to remove the tumour.”
During the two and a half hour operation, Lucy's surgeon managed to remove 100% of the tumour.
It was confirmed to be a low-grade colloid cyst which caused life-threatening hydrocephalus.
She said: “My face was incredibly swollen after surgery and I couldn’t open my eye.
"I spent a week in hospital and the worst thing was not being able to have any visitors.
"On one occasion, my mum dropped some things off for me and I heard her voice outside in the corridor but I wasn’t allowed to see her. It was really hard.”
On 23 November, Lucy had a lumbar puncture and was discharged.
She was given the rest of the school term off and continued to recover over the Christmas break.
"I had prepared to come back to school in January but then the Prime Minister announced that schools would be partially closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown, so I stayed at home teaching students remotely," Lucy said.
“When schools reopened to all pupils earlier this month, I returned at the same time but on a reduced timetable.
"I can’t walk very far or stand up for long periods of time.
"I feel very lucky to have extremely supportive employers and the kids have been great too.
"I’ve been very open about my diagnosis and told them what happened and even showed them photographs of my scar.
"They’ve all been really caring and respectful.”
As part of her new-found mission to raise awareness of brain tumours, Lucy is organising a Wear A Hat Day at Essa Academy on Friday 26 March 26.
Lucy says she is 'very keen to get the school involved' and all 1,100 pupils and staff will be wearing a hat tomorrow.
The school has already raised more than £1, 000 after a generous donation from Leyland Trucks, Lucy's mum's employer.
Now in its 12th year, Wear A Hat Day has raised more than £2 million to help fund the fight against the disease.
This year, Brain Tumour Research is celebrating key workers, like Lucy and her school colleagues.
According to the charity, brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.
"Just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease, and I’m very aware that not everyone is as fortunate as I am,” Lucy said.
Brain Tumour Research is the only UK charity which focuses solely on finding a cure for brain tumours.
Matthew Price, community development manager for Brain Tumour Research, said: “We were so sorry to learn about Lucy’s diagnosis but pleased that her surgery went well and that she’s been able to return to a job she loves.
“It’s so touching to see Essa Academy embracing Wear A Hat Day, one year on from the outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK.
Our supporters’ dedication in these unprecedented times is genuine and inspiring and we can’t wait to join them in putting on our hats, having some fun and raising money to fund sustainable research that will bring us closer to a cure for brain tumours."
More information and registration details for Wear a Hat Day can be found at this website.