AFTER a nightmare two year battle against a life-threatening illness, Shirley Tongue wondered whether she would ever get back to work.
But Shirley is back - as administrator for the Stretford Mall shopping centre - and is already sending nearly £200 collected from the centre’s Christmas grotto wishing well, to the hospital which saved her life, the Christie.
Single mum Shirley, who lives near the Stretford shopping centre, has returned physically and psychologically affected by her treatment, but determined to get back to business as usual.
She started work as centre administrator in Stretford Mall five years ago in 2008 as part of the management team.
“In 2010 I went to the doctors because I had a ringing noise in my right ear. I went to my local hospital for some tests and then I had an MRI brain scan. At first they thought it was a cyst but it turned out I had a brain tumour,” said Shirley.
“I was in shock, I’d gone in because of the tinnitus although I didn’t know it was tinnitus at the time which is why I ended up having a brain scan as nothing showed up on all other tests.
“Then I was told I had a brain tumour. I just thought ‘Oh my God!’ My daughter was with me when I got the result and we just laughed out of shock.
“The tumour has nothing to do with the ringing in the ear, they were just looking for nerve damage.”
In fact the tinnitus remains and Shirley just has to deal with that, along with everything else.
Shirley began losing her sight as the tumour put pressure on the brain and she had violent headaches.
She had an operation to remove part of the tumour. “If they had not removed it I would have lost my sight because it was fast-growing and putting increasing pressure on the brain,” she said.
“My sight was getting worse and I could not see things right in front of me.
“I don’t know what would have happened if I had not gone to the doctors because of the ringing in my ear, but presumably the tumour would have just got bigger. I thought the headaches were related to work stress.
“The tumour was not cancer, it was benign but because it was so fast growing I needed radiotherapy to kill off what was left.. The whole tumour could not be removed at once as it could have caused a lot more damage.”
That involved an intensive five week radiotherapy course at Christie Hospital and Shirley said: “It was very unpleasant but the staff there are lovely and very patient.
“Some people have masks which I refused as I am claustrophobic and the head fix is not pleasant because it means your head is fixed into position for the treatment so you end up feeling as if you are choking and they have to stop the treatment.
“I had counselling while I was at the Christie as it helped, as well as hypnosis and reflexology sessions, but in the end I just managed to ‘zone’ myself out and get on with it.
“I just admire the staff there so much.”
Shirley’s daughter supported her mum throughout her ordeal, but discovered she was pregnant shortly after her mum was diagnosed, which added to the pressure but gave Shirley something to look forward to and now she has a 20-month–old grandson.
Because of her treatment Shirley has to inject herself every night for the rest of her life with a growth hormone and she has had a second operation on her nose – to correct damage caused by the earlier treatment and removal of the tumour – has reduced her sense of smell and taste by at least 50 per cent.
“I was very apprehensive about coming back to work after two years off and very nervous, but it’s been good to get some normality back, which is what I needed.
“We had a well in the Xmas grotto which people throw coins into and it raised nearly £200 which we will send to Christie. We have sent other donations to Christie and if I ever win the lottery they will be certain to get a donation.”
Shirley says the remains of her tumour are shrinking and she returns to hospital for a scan this summer for a progress check.
Stretford Centre Manager Colin McCrory said: “It’s been great to have Shirley back because we were very worried about her.
“But she is a real battler and thanks to the efforts of the fantastic people at Christies Hospital and her own determination she is back at work and we’re delighted to have her here.”