A mother who woke up with a pain on one side of her face was shocked to learn she had a brain tumour left unnoticed for a decade.
Andreea Vanacker experienced the electric shock-like pain suddenly and it worsened every time she went to talk, laugh or even eat.
So the mum of two visited her doctor, who sent her to specialists. They eventually discovered a large benign tumour inside her skull, which was pressing down on the nerve responsible for controlling facial muscles. They said its size suggested it had been growing unnoticed for at least 10 years.
Ms Vanacker had the tumour removed via surgery, in which doctors had to remove part of her skull and cut into her brain. They managed to take out the entire tumour, but she said it took a year for her to recover her strength.
"I'd always been healthy and had never experienced anything like this; I knew this was not good news," the mother, from Canada, said.
"I was mainly experiencing intense pain that felt like electric shocks on the right side of my face anytime I would move my facial muscles.
"I was speechless when it was diagnosed."
Writing for the Insider, Ms Vanacker said she had a healthy lifestyle, and would avoid alcohol and coffee, and exercise regularly.
Ms Vanacker had the nine-hour operation to remove the tumour in November 2020, several months after her original pain. She had to see several neurologists in the interim.
Recalling her recovery after the procedure, the business CEO said: "Despite the immense pain I was in, I was able to smile. I could not believe it.
"I learned that he'd successfully removed the totality of the brain tumour without any damage to my facial nerve, and I was in total awe — and relief."
At five months after surgery, she was also allowed to do light exercise again, before spending a year building her strength back up. Her skull still felt painful until about 18 months after the operation.
An estimated 700,000 people in the US alone are living with a benign brain tumour, which is not cancerous and does not spread to other organs.