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Doctors dismissed my fears when I could suddenly taste BACON – the sinister cause turned my life upside down


A vegetarian student diagnosed with a brain tumour which left her able to ‘taste bacon’ claims that medics dismissed her unusual symptom and instead called her a ‘hormonal fresher’. 

Lucy Younger, from Cornwall, moved to the capital in September 2018 to study English Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London

Yet just months later, the then 18-year-old began suffering severe migraines and gustatory hallucinations, which cause tastes that are often strange or unpleasant. 

Despite repeated GP appointments, Ms Younger’s symptoms — which also included visual hallucinations and a sense of ‘deja vu’ — were simply put down to anxiety and depression and she was prescribed antidepressants.  

But after suffering a seizure and collapsing in 2020, scans revealed she had a benign brain tumour. Such masses can cause alter someone’s sense of taste.

Lucy Younger, from Cornwall, moved to the capital to begin an English Literature degree at Goldsmiths, University of London . Yet just months later, the then 18-year-old, began experiencing severe migraines and gustatory hallucinations — which cause tastes that are often strange or unpleasant. Despite repeat GP appointments she was told she was just anxious and depressed and put on antidepressants

Lucy Younger, from Cornwall, moved to the capital to begin an English Literature degree at Goldsmiths, University of London . Yet just months later, the then 18-year-old, began experiencing severe migraines and gustatory hallucinations — which cause tastes that are often strange or unpleasant. Despite repeat GP appointments she was told she was just anxious and depressed and put on antidepressants

But after suffering a seizure and collapsing in 2020, scans taken at the hospital revealed she had a benign brain tumour. Pictured, Ms Younger in hospital after collapsing and suffering a seizure

But after suffering a seizure and collapsing in 2020, scans taken at the hospital revealed she had a benign brain tumour. Pictured, Ms Younger in hospital after collapsing and suffering a seizure

Ms Younger postponed university for a year to undergo brain surgery to remove the tumour. But earlier this year, after suffering cold and flu symptoms, she returned to hospital. An ultrasound and biopsy revealed she had stage one thyroid cancer. Pictured, Ms Younger after surgery to remove part of her thyroid following her cancer diagnosis

Ms Younger postponed university for a year to undergo brain surgery to remove the tumour. But earlier this year, after suffering cold and flu symptoms, she returned to hospital. An ultrasound and biopsy revealed she had stage one thyroid cancer. Pictured, Ms Younger after surgery to remove part of her thyroid following her cancer diagnosis 

While the tumour was successfully removed, the now 23-year-old was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in the neck this year.

Ms Younger, who now lives in South East London, said: ‘I fully threw myself into London life, I was always going on nights out. I wanted to make the most of being in London as I’d moved from such a tiny town.

‘I’d made some great friends and I was really settling in, I loved the degree I was doing.

‘Then I’d started getting really intense migraines. I would be sat in my uni lectures and I’d see these pink elephants in the room. I thought I was going crazy.

‘I’m a vegetarian but I could taste bacon while seeing these elephants. I was like “why can I taste bacon right now?”.’

How does Temporal Lobe Epilepsy trigger gustatory hallucinations?

An aura or warning is the first symptom of a Temporal Lobe Epilepsy seizure and is considered part of the seizure. 

According to the Epilepsy Foundation, the most common auras are feelings of déjà-vu, gustatory hallucinations or some stomach upset. 

Some people may also sense an unusual smell. 

Feelings of fear, panic, anxiety, a rising sensation coming from the stomach to the chest or throat, or butterflies with nausea are other common auras. 

Other times it’s easy to recognize and may be a change in feeling, sensation, thought, or behavior that is similar each time a seizure occurs.

Ms Younger visited her GP in London but they said she was ‘just anxious and probably depressed’, she claimed. She said: ‘There was no way that I was that anxious. I knew in my gut something was wrong.’

After continuing to experience symptoms, she returned to her GP a year later after becoming worried that she had a brain tumour.

Visual hallucinations, taste hallucinations and a  feeling of deja vu — a sensation of having already done something — are all signs of brain tumours or epilepsy, which can be triggered by tumours.

However, Ms Younger claimed her concerns were dismissed again as being ‘hormonal’ and she was given a prescription for anti-depressants.

But after contracting Covid, her symptoms worsened and she began suffering with seizures and numbness down one side of her body. 

Ms Younger, who then visited her GP again, said: ‘I turned around to the doctor and said “Could it be a brain tumour?”.

‘He said “Don’t be silly, you’re 19, you’re fit and healthy. No one at the age of 19 gets a brain tumour, it’s hormonal”.

‘I still really wasn’t being listened to. I kept being dismissed by doctors.

‘I was being told over and over again “you don’t have a brain tumour, it doesn’t happen to people your age”.

‘I felt like I was being really annoying and like I was being a hypochondriac.’

Ms Younger said the antidepressants she had been prescribed ‘didn’t do anything’ because she wasn’t depressed but left her feeling ‘dramatic’ and like she couldn’t trust herself. 

But while in Cornwall in 2020, she collapsed and suffered a seizure. She went to A&E, where medics discovered she had temporal lobe epilepsy, which was triggering her seizures.

Epilepsy can raise the risk of strokes and psychological conditions, including anxiety and depression. 

She added: 'You know your body better than anyone and if you really think there's something wrong you need to push for tests and advice. 'If I'd taken the first piece of advice, I still wouldn't know I had a brain tumour and I wouldn't have found out I had thyroid cancer'

She added: ‘You know your body better than anyone and if you really think there’s something wrong you need to push for tests and advice. ‘If I’d taken the first piece of advice, I still wouldn’t know I had a brain tumour and I wouldn’t have found out I had thyroid cancer’

Ms Younger has since had half of her thyroid removed, takes medication for epilepsy and now undergoes twice yearly brain scans. She said: 'It feels like it has completely stolen my twenties. 'Even small things that aren't that deep like all my friends go on nights out and I can't go out drinking as I'm on medication.' Pictured, Ms Younger with flatmate Ellie

Ms Younger has since had half of her thyroid removed, takes medication for epilepsy and now undergoes twice yearly brain scans. She said: ‘It feels like it has completely stolen my twenties. ‘Even small things that aren’t that deep like all my friends go on nights out and I can’t go out drinking as I’m on medication.’ Pictured, Ms Younger with flatmate Ellie

The condition — which affects around 50million people worldwide — is usually diagnosed by the age of 20. The seizures start in one or both temporal lobes in the brain, which are responsible for memory, hearing and understanding language.

Gustatory hallucinations and the feeling of déjà-vu are among the common signs of the condition, according to the Epilepsy Foundation. 

However, it was only after a follow-up appointment with her GP in Cornwall that she was referred for an MRI scan. 

Within half an hour of the scan, doctors called her back and told her over the phone — due to Covid restrictions — that her epilepsy was being triggered by a paediatric benign brain tumour, she claimed.

These non-cancerous tumours are a mass of cells that grow relatively slowly in the brain and trigger headaches and epileptic fits. Surgery is the go-to treatment to remove the tumours.

WHAT IS EPILEPSY?

Epilepsy is a condition that affects the brain and leaves patients at risk of seizures.

Around one in 100 people in the UK have epilepsy, Epilepsy Action statistics reveal.

And in the US, 1.2 per cent of the population have the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Anyone can have a seizure, which does not automatically mean they have epilepsy.

Usually more than one episode is required before a diagnosis.

Seizures occur when there is a sudden burst of electrical activity in the brain, which causes a disruption to the way it works.

Some seizures cause people to remain alert and aware of their surroundings, while others make people lose consciousness.

Some also make patients experience unusual sensations, feelings or movement, or go stiff and fall to the floor where they jerk.

Epilepsy can be brought on at any age by a stroke, brain infection, head injury or problems at birth that lead to lack of oxygen.

But in more than half of cases, a cause is never found.

Anti-epileptic drugs do not cure the condition but help to stop or reduce seizures.

If these do not work, brain surgery can be effective.

Source: Epilepsy Action

Ms Younger dropped out of university for a year to undergo brain surgery and recover. But she returned to finish her undergraduate degree and completed a masters. 

Then, in early 2023 — during her masters course — she became unwell with cold and flu symptoms.

She visited her GP who referred her for an ultrasound and biopsy, which revealed she had stage one thyroid cancer in the neck.

The cancer affects the small gland at the base of the neck that produces hormones. 

There are around 3,900 new cases in the UK and 43,000 in the US each year. 

Ms Younger said: ‘They said “thyroid cancer is really rare, you’re young, fit, healthy and a girl, we don’t think it’s cancer”.’

She added: ‘I didn’t believe them when they told me, I thought they’d gotten the wrong Lucy.’

Ms Younger has since had half of her thyroid removed, takes medication for epilepsy and now undergoes twice yearly brain scans.

She said: ‘It feels like it has completely stolen my twenties.

‘Even small things that aren’t that deep like all my friends go on nights out and I can’t go out drinking as I’m on medication.

‘They’re getting into relationships and settling down, but I can’t even think about that. 

It’s hard to meet people and it isn’t really a good conversation starter.’

She added: ‘You know your body better than anyone and if you really think there’s something wrong you need to push for tests and advice.

‘If I’d taken the first piece of advice, I still wouldn’t know I had a brain tumour and I wouldn’t have found out I had thyroid cancer.

‘If there was more awareness around brain tumours and seizures, I’d have known and wouldn’t have thought I was going crazy.’

WHAT IS THYROID CANCER?

It is one of the rarer cancers that affects the thyroid gland, a small gland at the base of the neck that produces hormones.

It’s most common in people in their 30s and those over the age of 60, with women up to three times more likely to develop it than men.

There are around 3,900 new cases in the UK every year, or 11 a day.

Thyroid cancer is usually treatable, with a 10-year survival rate of 84 per cent, and in many cases can be cured completely.

Symptoms

  • a painless lump or swelling in the front of the neck – although only 1 in 20 neck lumps are cancer
  • swollen glands in the neck
  • unexplained hoarseness that does not get better after a few weeks
  • a sore throat that does not get better
  • difficulty swallowing

What causes thyroid cancer?

Thyroid cancer happens when there’s a change to the DNA inside thyroid cells which causes them to grow uncontrollably and produce a lump.

It’s not usually clear what causes this change, but there are a number of things that can increase your risk.

These include:

  • other thyroid conditions, such as an inflamed thyroid (thyroiditis) or goitre – but not an overactive thyroid or underactive thyroid
  • a family history of thyroid cancer – your risk is higher if a close relative has had thyroid cancer
  • radiation exposure in childhood – such as radiotherapy
  • obesity
  • a bowel condition called familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP)
  • acromegaly – a rare condition where the body produces too much growth hormone

Types of thyroid cancer

There are four main types of thyroid cancer:

  • papillary carcinoma – the most common type, accounting for about eight in 10 cases; it usually affects people under 40, particularly women
  • follicular carcinoma – accounts for up to one in 10 cases and tends to affect middle-aged adults, particularly women
  • medullary thyroid carcinoma – accounts for less than 1 in 10 cases; unlike the other types, it can run in families
  • anaplastic thyroid carcinoma – the rarest and most serious type, accounting for around one in 50 cases; it usually affects people over the age of 60



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