Teenager’s routine eye test turns into every parent’s worst nightmare

A routine check up turned into a family's worst nightmare.

Teenager’s routine eye test turns into every parent’s worst nightmare
bethany williams
A close call (Picture: PA Real Life)

A routine check up turned into a family’s worst nightmare, when a 16-year-old was diagnosed with cancer.

Jenna Williams, 38, a primary school teaching assistant, said she is ‘so grateful’ her daughter’s tumour was picked up after the family went through five months of not knowing why 16-year-old Bethany’s health was deteriorating.

She lost over two stone, and was very poorly.

While doctors thought Bethany’s illness was due to gastritis (an inflamed stomach lining), the teenager continued to worsen until she needed a wheelchair. But after breaking her glasses, Jenna took Bethany for an eye test, which revealed a deadly mass in her brain.

Upon going to hospital, she was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a primary central nervous system tumour.

She had lifesaving surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible.

Since then, Bethany has undergone 30 sessions of proton beam therapy and nine months of chemotherapy – thankfully now she is in remission.

Jenna, who lives in Elmswell, Suffolk said: ‘It was a really awful time for us, we spent five months going back and forth from the hospital and just not knowing what was wrong with her.

Bethany williams
The unknown illness saw Bethany drop two and a half stone in weight (Picture: PA Real Life)
Bethany williams
Bethany is considered to have ‘no visible signs of disease’ (Picture: PA Real Life)

‘I had a feeling it was something more serious than gastritis because no treatment seemed to work.

‘I’m just so grateful the tumour was picked up by the eye test and Bethany was able to get the treatment she needed.

‘I hope to raise awareness that eye tests aren’t always just for new glasses, they can be lifesaving too.’

Bethany williams
Bethany is now in remission (Picture: PA Real Life)
Bethany williams
Bethany had lifesaving surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible (Picture: PA Real Life)

Jenna first noticed that there was something wrong with her daughter in early January 2021, when Bethany came down with a sickness bug.

She said: ‘At first, we thought it was just a tummy bug but she couldn’t seem to shake it. Doctors thought it might be gastritis but after five months, and a lot of doctor appointments, she was still unwell.

‘I had a bit of a breakdown at one stage while she was in hospital for tests and said that it must be something serious but doctors still thought it was gastritis.’

In May that year, she went to Specsavers and the optometrist urged Jenna to take Bethany to hospital.

Bethany needed 30 sessions of proton beam therapy (Collect/PA Real Life)
Caption: Bethany needed 30 sessions of proton beam therapy (Collect/PA Real Life) Photographer: Collect/PA Real Life(Credits: Collect/PA Real Life)
Bethany was diagnosed with a deadly cancerous brain tumour (Collect/PA Real Life)
Caption: Bethany was diagnosed with a deadly cancerous brain tumour (Collect/PA Real Life) Photographer: Collect/PA Real Life(Credits: Collect/PA Real Life)

Bethany had a MRI which initially revealed swelling on her brain but Jenna and Kevin were dealt further results later that same day when medics discovered the root cause of the teenager’s health problems.

Jenna said: ‘They sat me down in a room and told me that she had a brain tumour. It was just awful.’ They later discovered the tumour was cancerous.

After taking a break from school during her treatment, Bethany is now studying for her A-levels and plans to start a career in pharmaceuticals.

Bethany added: ‘I’m doing a lot better now and I’m seeing friends a lot more.

‘I think the biggest thing for me would be to say get your eyes checked if something’s wrong. It could be lifesaving.’

Brain tumour symptoms

The symptoms of a brain tumour vary depending on the exact part of the brain affected. But common symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • seizures (fits)
  • persistently feeling sick (nausea), being sick (vomiting) and drowsiness
  • mental or behavioural changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality
  • progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
  • vision or speech problems

Sometimes you may not have any symptoms to begin with, or they may develop very slowly over time. See your GP about any concerns, particularly if you have a headache that feels worse or different to previous headaches.

Source: NHS

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