A mum who thought she spotted a "mysterious figure" on the road was actually suffering from a massive brain tumour wreaking havoc on her vision.
Margi Garner, 54, slammed on brakes while driving after she noticed a "shadowy image" on the road.
She was persuaded by her optician to see an eye specialist, but multiple appointments failed to provide an explanation for her deteriorating vision.
The gran of six, from Liverpool, says she "made a deal" with her doctor to go for an MRI as one last-ditch attempt at solving her vision problems.
She now claims that agreement has saved her life.
On Valentine's Day 2013, Margi found herself opposite a nurse who delivered the devastating news that she had a large brain tumour, known as a meningioma, which had been pressing on her optic nerve.
The mum-of-two and loving nan told the Liverpool Echo that it all began after what she thought was a near-miss car crash with a pedestrian.
"It all started when I saw a shadow on the road that I thought was a pedestrian and slammed on my brakes, but it was the branch of a tree.
"I went the opticians and he did an eye test on me and gave me varifocal glasses. I thought 'whatever', you know you're getting old.
"But then I could only see the outline of things, I could not see what they were. I thought you can't go on like this."
After returning to the opticians she was referred to St Paul's Eye Unit at the Royal Liverpool Hospital, where she reluctantly agreed to the MRI.
She said: "They told me I could have had the tumour for years, it was the size of an orange… When the surgeon met me she said 'how you're still alive I will never know."
After the diagnosis she was referred to specialist neurological hospital The Walton Centre, in Aintree, for surgery.
Surgeons were unable to cut out the entire tumour as it was too close to a major blood vessel, but Margi appeared on the mend until a follow up appointment in 2016 revealed the remaining cancer had begun to grow again.
Rather than attempt further surgery, Margi opted for six weeks of daily radiotherapy sessions, which shrunk the tumour and saved Margi's life.
But as she recuperated, Margi realised something had changed.
Partly inspired by The Walton Centre specialist nurse Emma Wilby, who was there for Margi following her surgery, she said: "I remember waking up and thinking ‘I really need someone to talk to about what I’ve just been through'.
"I honestly don’t know how I’d have got through it without her."
"I was sat at home and I decided I don't want to be stuck in here, I'm wasting my life away; life is for living. This has completely changed my view on life."
Margi, who worked with her husband Merv Garner at the family business, Merv's Key Cutting and Shoe Repair, decided to call The Walton Centre back and offer her services as a volunteer helping patients.
She said: "I just love helping people, it's a lovely feeling getting to talk to people and we have a good laugh. I remember one lady who was there with her son and daughter.
"She was just crying her eyes out, so I made her a cup of tea and asked her what was going on. She said 'who's going to look after my kids, I'm not going to survive this'.
"I just took her hand and said 'you are'. She said 'how do you know?', and I said 'because I have been through the same thing'. Soon we were laughing our heads off."
Margi has also raised funds for charities helping people diagnosed with a brain tumour and in January this year asked for donations to The Brain Tumour Charity instead of birthday gifts.
Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Being diagnosed with a brain tumour is very frightening. It leaves people feeling isolated, anxious and uncertain about what the future holds.
“We’re immensely grateful to Margi for sharing her story to show others that they’re not alone, and for everything she does at the Walton Centre to help patients at such a difficult time in their lives.”
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