When I was in college, I experienced episodes of seeing “floaters,” which is just another name for little white spots, and also would experience numbness at the same time. The numbness would start in my hands and work its way up to my head and these episodes would last for about 20 minutes each time. I also lost my peripheral vision and my hearing was getting very bad in my left ear. I knew something was not right and ended up getting recommended to see a neurologist in Phoenix, since that is where I was living at the time. The neurologist tested my balance, eyes, etc. and ended up giving me the diagnosis of “migraines”. Yep, migraines. I honestly left the office crying since it was the toughest thing to know that something was not right and he did not think anything was wrong at all. That same week I found out I was pregnant with a little girl.
My fiancé and I ended up moving to Seattle so I could be with my family while having our daughter. At my 39 week appointment, Haley was head down ready to be born. At my 40 week appointment, she had flipped. She had decided she wasn’t ready apparently! I went in for a C-section the next morning and had her in December of 2011. In January of 2012 (1 month later), my fiancé’s father got very sick down in Arizona so he headed down to be with his family while Haley and I hung out in Washington. We ended up spending the weekend in Seattle with my sister and her husband to get some good quality time together and little did I know, that weekend would change my life forever.
On Saturday night, I was standing at the top of the stairs but lost my balance and fell head over heels to the bottom of the staircase. My sister called 911 and paramedics came fast to the scene and decided to take me to Harborview Medical Center which is known to specialize in all head injuries. It’s the best of the best. Maybe I’m biased? They sent me in for a CT scan which showed a giant mass of fluid built up in my brain. They decided it was NOT good and rushed me into emergency surgery to put a drain right in the front of my head. It was lovely. They knew something was blocking my spinal fluid flow but did not know what so I went into an extensive MRI. I woke up the next morning in the ICU, with my family by my side. I had no idea what was going on and have to admit, I was very scared. My neurosurgeon came in later that day to show us the MRI results.
The MRI showed a very large tumor blocking my spinal fluid. We did not know any details at the time like what kind it was, how long it had been growing, and whether or not it was cancerous. With my fiancé still in Arizona, I had to make a phone call to him to let him know that I seriously had a brain tumor. He had to choose whether to stay by his dad’s side while his health was declining fast or come be by my side while going into the surgeries. It was not an easy situation but Adrian flew up to be by my side. I went into my first surgery on February 2, for 16 hours and the doctor could only remove 60% of the tumor. He found out my tumor was the size of an orange, was a meningioma, non-cancerous, and had been growing for around 10 years. The 2nd surgery was the toughest and lasted about 14 hours. He had to go deep into the brain and told us there was a possibility of memory loss, behavioral problems, balance and coordination, among other things.
I woke up on life support with Adrian by my side but I was okay. He had just gotten the news that his dad passed away while I was in surgery. One life was saved while one life was taken. It was a true miracle. Speaking of miracles, my neurosurgeon later ended up telling us that if my I was in the ICU healing for about a month. I had to go to rehab to work on my coordination and walking again on my own.
I had to see psychologists and therapists to work on my memory of describing objects and just being able to finish a sentence without any help. I lost feeling on the left side of my face, my hearing in my left ear, and have some smaller lasting side effects. I tell everyone that the hardest part of the experience was rehabilitation since it was SO frustrating and discouraging at times. As frustrating as it had gotten, I reminded myself how blessed I was to have had such small after effects, and most importantly, to be alive. I promise this story is almost done! Lets fast forward to February of 2013. I ended up have a Grand Mal seizure and somehow lived through the experience. The neurologist said my brain showed an area of permanent damage where the mass had been pushing against. Apparently, this is extremely rare and the neurosurgeon joked and told be me I was the lucky 1 in a 1,000 to have this happen.
I now have epilepsy and will be on medications for the rest of my life, but again I am happy to be here. I am blessed to be alive. In the end of my story, I want to emphasize the quote I had said before how “everything happens for a reason”. Ready for this? So if I hadn’t gotten pregnant, I wouldn’t have moved to Washington to be with my family. If my daughter wouldn’t have flipped the week she was due, my neurosurgeon said I could have possibly died during natural birth because of the mass. If Adrian’s dad was not sick, I might have not made plans to go to my sisters which would have meant I wouldn’t have fallen down her stairs.
If I wouldn’t have fallen, I wouldn’t have been taken to Harborview which I wouldn’t have had the world renown surgeon that I had. If I hadn’t had the mass, I wouldn’t have had the seizure and been put on the medication. They said the medication could prevent us having more children but it may work out down the road. If we never were told this, we wouldn’t have realized how blessed we were to have our daughter when we did. We did not plan on a child but if we never had her, we wouldn’t have realized what a miracle she was. I believe she is my guardian angel. Going through this experience has changed who I am. It has shaped me into a new person and given me an appreciation I may have never gained in life. I do not take any day for granted and believe that every person needs that hope. I struggled and my family struggled, but with strength, we got through it. I want to continue fighting to better myself and sharing this story. I want to fight for others so they have just a little more hope during their journey of battling a brain tumor. My aspect on life has changed and ultimately…if I never had this tumor, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.