'I thought anorexia had returned before doctor delivered news'

Lauren before her diagnosis
-Credit: (Image: Brain Tumour Research/SWNS)

A young woman who mistook her facial numbness as an anorexia symptom was diagnosed with brain cancer. Lauren Boon, 23, had previously struggled with anorexia as a teenager and thought the numb sensations in her face and head were symptoms related to the eating disorder.

But when the numbness continued she went to her GP and was sent for an MRI scan. Lauren was diagnosed with a grade 2 astrocytoma - a slow-growing brain tumour - in December 2023. She had an operation to remove it in January 2024, but may need a second surgery after her follow-up scan was inconclusive.

Lauren, a health and wellbeing coach, from Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, said: "I developed an eating disorder in 2020 when I was 19. I was under medical supervision for this and mentioned my symptoms.

"The doctor said it’s not something they had ever come across. I put it down to a sign of needing to eat something, in relation to maybe low blood pressure and low heart rate."

Lauren overcame her eating disorder in 2023, but the numbness persisted.

She said: “I went to the GP and they said it could be a trapped nerve around my jaw or something neurological. I was referred for an MRI scan in February 2023 and told I had a lesion on my brain. I knew from my degree in psychology when I studied a little about the brain, the word lesion wasn’t good."

Lauren had another MRI in April 2023 and was told she had a benign tumour, but in her six-month check-up in December she was told they needed to operate. Lauren had a craniotomy - a six-hour operation to remove the tumour - in January this year.

A biopsy confirmed the mass was a grade 2 astrocytoma. She now faces a potential second surgery after her follow-up scan in April was inconclusive.

She said: “Despite being in surgery for almost six hours, I feel good apart from sometimes suffering with fatigue. The consultant wants to avoid radiotherapy because of my age.

“She told me what they found on my scan last month it wasn’t new growth, but could be residual tumour. I have another scan this month to determine if I need a second operation which this time. I will be awake for due to the tumour growing close to the motor strip in my brain.”

Lauren's own health struggles inspired her to study a master’s in eating disorders and clinical nutrition degree at University College London (UCL) - which she graduated from in May 2024. She also shares her story on TikTok @diaryoflaurenx.

She said: “My own eating disorder inspired me to want to study and work towards supporting others who may be facing their own struggles, which is also the idea with taking to TikTok to talk about brain tumours. Navigating medical appointment, brain scans, results and treatment, I maintained my studies, although I came so close to dropping out.

"My parents convinced me to persevere. I was so scared that I was going to have a seizure after the doctor warned me this could happen, when it came to my exams, dad travelled with me to London and waited outside the room.

“I’m sharing my brain cancer journey on TikTok, including all appointments, treatment, scans and results. People have been shocked to find out I have a brain tumour and offered their support by liking and commenting words of support on my videos.

"It’s meant people have shared their own experience of brain tumours with me. It makes the fact that one in three people know someone affected by a brain tumour so real.”

Lauren after surgery
Lauren after surgery -Credit:Brain Tumour Research/SWNS

In May, just three months after brain surgery, Lauren completed '200k in May Your Way' in aid of the charity Brain Tumour Research. The challenge required participants to walk, jog, run, cycle, swim, or combine activities, to complete a 200km distance over the course of the month.

Lauren said: “I’m frustrated and surprised at the lack of investment funding that goes into brain tumour research. There is no one set of symptoms or one size fits all when it comes to treatment. If we are to discover kinder treatment options and find a cure for this disease, we need greater investment into research.”

Charlie Allesbrook, community development manager at Brain Tumour Research, said: “Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age. In the UK, 16,000 people each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour yet, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to brain tumours since records began in 2002.

"Lauren has been through so much with her health, the resilience she has shown is admirable. We are extremely grateful that Lauren has shared her story with us and achieved 200k in May along the way.”