That’s Me in the #BTAM Photo Holding That Cool Sign!
The past 4-5 years have been filled with many emotions in the Banks household. I first found out that I had a brain tumor back in 2009. I knew something was going on with my body as I was gaining a lot of weight and my moods were all over the place. I wasn’t the happy bubbly Rachael that I’ve always been. My husband and I went from doctor to doctor and no one could tell me what was going on. We moved to Charlotte, NC and met with a doctor who listened to what I had to say and felt as though he knew exactly what was going on. He said that he wanted to run some tests just to confirm. At this point, I had no idea of what I was about to find out. I received a call from his nurse indicating that I needed to get an MRI ASAP as the test that he ran confirmed what he was thinking. My prolactin level was highly elevated which really only means one thing, you have a tumor.
Wow. How am I going to tell my husband? What am I going to tell my family? My mind was all over the place. I went and had the MRI done and was told that I did have a tumor on my pituitary gland. I remember hoping that I was going to be able to call my husband and say “It’s not a tumor” in my Arnold Schwarzenegger voice (Epic line from Kindergarten Cop), and unfortunately, I wasn’t. I didn’t have much time for a pity party as I knew we needed to find out more on what was going on and get this thing treated. We met with lots of doctors. Many times I set there in awe that I was going through this. I tried several different medications. Unfortunately, they did not react with my body well so the only other option was surgery. Surgery was in August of 2009. At the time was the roughest thing I have ever been through. Recovery was intense. I was out of work for about 12 weeks. Over the next couple years my husband and I moved a couple times. He joined the military was stationed at Seymour Johnson in Goldsboro, NC. That led us to Kinston, NC. I was required to get annual MRI’s done just to make sure everything is going okay up in that head of mine. I went to get my annual MRI done in March of 2011. My husband was away at training in Mississippi.
I got the call. “Mrs. Banks we have the results of your MRI and we found something”. Oh lovely. Not this again. I met with a couple doctors who said that we would just watch it and see what happens. They felt it may just be a mass and I shouldn’t worry. Let’s just hold off and do another MRI in a year and see what happens. I wasn’t having any of the symptoms as before so I went along with it. I went back in 2012 and they noticed the “mass” grew some but told me not to worry let’s wait a year and see what happens. My husband’s active orders ended (he is still a reservist) so we moved to Raleigh, NC. I knew that I needed the best care and decided to get into the DUKE system. Met with my PCP and explained my history. She ordered an MRI for my annual review. Then I get the call. Your tumor has grown a significant amount over the past year. Okay…here we go again. How do I break this to my friends and family AGAIN? My husband and I met with the doctors. The doctor wanted to do immediate surgery. I felt like I wanted to try another option as I have already been down that road once and knew how rough it was on me. I met with my endocrinologist who suggested a chemo pill that would help shrink the tumor. Oh and I thought surgery was rough? What was I thinking? I started chemo in November. Who starts chemo at the holidays? Worst idea ever. I tried to eat Thanksgiving dinner at my aunt’s house and after 5 bites had to run to the bathroom.
I missed all the parties, festive foods, everything. I didn’t even decorate this year. I am typically Buddy the Elf and this year I was a scrooge. After about a month on chemo, we met with the doctor and said okay let’s do the surgery. He informed me that they would be doing it a little bit different than before. The surgery was very different from the first. Took about 7-8 hours as this tumor was larger than the first which means more of an invasive surgery. I won’t go into all the details but just trust me, it wasn’t pretty. I was admitted to DUKE on 01/01/2014 (I know what a way to spend NYD) and was discharged 01/07/2014. The staff at DUKE was absolutely amazing. So the question is- Will this tumor come back a third time? The answer is…no one knows. Unfortunately, doctors are not sure what neither causes this type of tumor nor know how to treat it permanently. What I do know is that I have done this TWICE, I can do it again. This is why Brain Tumor Awareness Month is so important. So many people are impacted by brain tumors every day and not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Mother Theresa said it best with “Life’s An Adventure, Dare It.”.