Published: 17:00, 23 July 2014
A Northfleet hairdresser with a rare brain tumour has been left with robotic voices ringing in her ears - making people sound like her greatest childhood fear... Daleks.
Terrified Katie Barnes, 46, thought something was wrong when she started to lose her hearing in April 2012.
She then started to have a constant ringing in her left ear, making it harder to hear her customers while she was cutting their hair.
A few months later, Katie - who was terrified of the Dr Who Daleks as a child - was shocked when the voices in her salon started to sound robotic.
Katie, who was also suffering from pain all over her body, was first diagnosed with fibromyalgia - a long-term pain condition.
But when she began to spontaneously lose her balance, the mother-of-two went back to her GP and she was given an MRI.
The scan revealed Katie, of Bonham Way, had an extremely rare brain tumour called an acoustic neuroma.
"I was terrified of the Daleks as a child and I used to have to run and hide under my bed - and now I have to hear them all the time..." - Katie Barnes
Medics have managed to shrink the tumour and are hoping they can keep it under control as operating is very risky.
But Katie's balance and hearing will be affected for the rest of her life.
She said: "I had a constant ringing in my left ear and everyone sounded like Daleks.
"I was terrified of the Daleks as a child and I used to have to run and hide under my bed - and now I have to hear them all the time.
"It was bearable because I had my good ear, but if I blocked the right ear it genuinely sounded like I was in an episode of Dr Who - it made me think I was going deaf.
"For a while when I put my phone on my ear I just thought it was a constant bad line and I even changed my phone.
"I started to stumble at work and my balance was just completely off, and I knew something was wrong. It was like I was constantly on a boat.
"I was told it was an acoustic lesion, or an acoustic neuroma, and I laughed, I didn't know what it was.
"I Googled it and found out it was, thankfully, the least deadly tumour you can have."
A neuroma is a growth of tissue which is not usually cancerous, but when it is an acoustic neuroma it can lead to other life-changing symptoms.
After a "watch and wait" programme, doctors noticed Katie's balance had become significantly worse and her tumour was rapidly growing.
Katie - mother to Rebekah, 20, Thomas, 19, and 14-year-old Jacob - underwent gamma knife radiosurgery at The London Gamma Knife Centre in January 2014.
The procedure involves blasts of direct radiation to the tumour to stop it growing while the head is held tightly in a clamp.
Thankfully, Katie was told at the end of last month the tumour is shrinking and her life has got back on track as her symptoms have reduced.
Unfortunately, doctors told her that despite the tumour shrinking her balance and hearing will be affected for the rest of her life.
Katie, who had to quit her job, is now struggling to look after Rebekah, who suffers from syringomyelia - a cyst in her spinal chord which leaves her bound to a wheelchair.
Katie, who lives with 46-year-old husband Paul, added: "It seems to have improved since I was told it was shrinking, a hearing aid has stopped the ringing and I'm able to stand and move around.
"Unfortunately everyone still sounds like a Dalek, but I will just have to get used to that.
"The tumour is benign luckily, but it's on just on the edge of my brain stem so it's going to be watched very closely.
"If it does seem to suddenly start growing I will have to have surgery, and with it being so close to the brain it could leave me paralysed facially.
"It shows brain tumours come in many different disguises and I had no idea that something like a hearing problem could be the sign of one."
Katie, who now relies on walking stick to get around, is starting a university degree in humanities in October despite her condition.
Katie is raising money for the British Acoustic Neuroma Association, by taking part in a number of fundraising pamper days where her friends will provide massages and manicures.
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