Northern Ireland news

SDLP MLA Cara Hunter on her 'life-altering' benign brain tumour diagnosis

East Derry MLA Cara Hunter was diagnosed with a benign brain tumour last year

SDLP MLA Cara Hunter has said being diagnosed with a benign brain tumour has been "life-altering".

The East Derry assembly member was told about the tumour on the same day she was due to be co-opted last year.

She was diagnosed with a tumour in her pituitary gland last May.

Ms Hunter said although the tumour is "not life-threatening" she has to take strong prescription medication which can make her feel nauseated.

She also experiences brain fog and altered speech.

The 25-year-old spoke out to help raise awareness.

Ms Hunter told the Belfast Telegraph that she has been trying to come to terms with the diagnosis.

"At times, it's been a living hell but I am thankful my tumour is benign and not malignant," she said.

"I went to my GP when I was 22 with an irregular menstrual cycle. I'd have no period for six months, and then it would be very sporadic. My doctor requested a blood test to measure my prolactin level. It should be 40-60 for non-pregnant females. At its highest, mine has been 1,800."

Ms Hunter said the diagnosis came as something of a relief.

"The tumour was tucked in behind my optic nerve so it was damaging my sight, and I'd found reading challenging," she said.

"The diagnosis left me feeling relieved in some ways and validated after having had all these strange symptoms.

"I exercise, I eat healthy. Most people in their twenties don't have to deal with something like this. Young and fun — that's gone now. I won't die from this but I'll potentially be on medication for the rest of my life.”

Ms Hunter, who was co-opted into Stormont after the death of veteran SDLP MLA John Dallat, said she has to take "very strong" medication called Cabergoline.

“It gives me nausea and dizziness. I take it twice a week and I now try to time it around my Stormont schedule," she said.

“You wake up in the morning feeling like you're going to throw up. You're never actually sick but you rush to the bathroom thinking you will be.”

However, Ms Hunter, the SDLP's health spokeswoman, said she is determined to stay in politics.

"I give it 110 per cent and there is nothing else I could see myself doing," she said.

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