BBC’s Julia Somerville ‘woke up in bed feeling so strange’ as a tumour grew in her brain

Julia Somerville discusses changes to BT landline system

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Back in 1993, Julia Somerville unknowingly had a brain tumour; when she went to bed with a pounding headache, the TV presenter put it down to sunstroke after holidaying in Devon.”I woke in the bed feeling so strange,” she remembered.

“The room was full of people – the hotel manager, doctors, ambulance men. I didn’t know why.

“Somerville later found out that she had suffered from a fit during her sleep, which was caused by a growing tumour situated by her optic nerve.

“An optician had checked my eyes a couple of months before and found nothing,” she told The Mirror.

“So I’d no reason to suspect there was anything wrong.”

Julia Somerville was a news presenter

When the tumour was discovered, however, it was the “size of a small orange”, which needed to be surgically removed.

“They told me I was very ill,” Somerville recalled. “I’d bitten my tongue during the fit, so I was well aware it was something quite serious.”

She continued: “But I had no idea what. I knew nothing of brain tumours and remember feeling quite calm and passive.

“That’s sometimes a consequence of a fit. It was also partly due to ignorance, which was certainly bliss in this case.”

Somerville would have been in her 40s at the time of the brain tumour discovery.

And, reportedly, she needed to stay in hospital for 12 days following surgery; luckily, Somerville reported no long-term side effects from the operation.

What is a brain tumour?

The NHS explains: “A brain tumour is a growth of cells in the brain that multiplies in an abnormal, uncontrollable way.”

Depending on how fast the tumour grows, and how likely it is to grow back post surgery, medical professionals grade the lesion.

Grade one to two are considered “low grade”, whereas grade three to four are noted as “high grade”.

Moreover, there are two main types of brain tumours: non-cancerous (benign) and cancerous (malignant).

Benign brain tumours are low grade, which means they grow slowly and are less likely to grow back after surgery.

Malignant brain tumours, on the other hand, are high grade; the cancerous cells either start in the brain or spread to the brain from elsewhere.These sorts of tumours are more likely to return after treatment.Depending on which part of the brain has the tumour, symptoms can 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.

“More than 11,000 people are diagnosed with a primary brain tumour in the UK each year, of which about half are cancerous,” the NHS states.

While more common in older adults, anybody can be affected by a brain tumour, including children.

As for Somerville, it seems the 75-year-old had a low-grade tumour, one that treatment successfully got rid of, enabling her to continue her busy schedule.

You can catch Julie Somerville on BBC One’s Rip Off Britain, on Monday August 15 at 7pm.

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