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My Brain Tumor: The Story

Appointments, appointments, appointments

“I really think you need to see your eye doctor today,” my naturopath told me, who rarely saw reason for concern. I knew he wouldn’t be telling me this if it wasn’t actually concerning, since he, of all people, knew that any bit of medical testing or possible ailment would throw me over the edge.

I had missed my appointment with the headache specialist the Friday prior, and felt as though I was at my wit’s end. I had been dealing with headaches for about six months, and they seemed to be getting much worse. I had tried everything—medications, diet changes, natural supplements—and nothing had helped. My eyesight was also going, but I wasn’t sure if it was anxiety, the migraines, or something worse. So, I had decided to go see my naturopath, in hopes that he would tell me I was fine and send me home with something that would help the headaches. Much to my dismay, he didn’t, so I left his office and called my eye doctor.

My eye doctor wanted to see me right away. Upon examination, he quickly referred me to a retina specialist as he believed I had fluid build-up in my right eye, which was causing the cloudy vision. The retina specialist couldn’t get me in for 6 weeks, so I called my eye doctor and had him give them a call. They quickly called me back and said they wanted to see me that afternoon.

The retina specialist said that my eye looked healthy, but that she believed there was some pressure coming from the outside. “Pressure?…” I asked, nervously. “Let’s just have an MRI done next week, and we’ll go from there. We’re going to figure out what’s going on, but in the meantime, don’t worry. And if it gets worse, just go into the E.R.”

The diagnosis

That evening, my eyesight seemed to be getting worse. Again, I wasn’t sure if it was actually getting worse, or if it was just anxiety. Time and time again I had gone into the E.R. only to find that my symptoms were mostly just a result of anxiety. I talked with my parents (who were in Arizona on vacation), Kyle, and my grandma (my mom’s mom). Everyone seemed to agree that it was best just to go into the E.R., so I decided I may as well go, if even just for the peace of mind.

Kyle had a pile of homework, and looked stressed beyond belief. I told him to stay home and that I’d go in with my grandma, just so I could know that everything was fine.

The E.R. was relatively empty, and they got me in right away. When they had me tell them which lines of the eye exam chart I could see, the answer was none. You know, the chart with all the lines of letters? I couldn’t even see the huge letter at the top. I started to get scared. They brought me in for an MRI before they had time to give me any anxiety medicine. And I might be just a little claustrophobic. Laying with my head in a cage, in that huge, loud(!), machine, was almost more than I could handle. After the first 20-minute scan, they said the doctor wanted to do another scan after injecting die. That’s when I knew something had to be up.

“We got some great pictures,” said the technician, with a slightly terrified look on his face. He wasn’t very good at acting.

I waited back in my room for awhile, and finally the E.R. doctor came in. He didn’t mess around. “You have a pituitary macroadenoma. It’s basically a tumor wrapped around your pituitary gland at the base of your brain.”

“Tumor?…” was the only word I could get out. The room started spinning a little bit, and all I could hear was a high-pitch screaming in my ears. He handed my grandma a packet of information, and said that the hospital’s neurosurgeon wanted to see me in his office at 1 p.m. the next day.

“But it’s not dangerous . . . right?” I finally asked. “Well, we just don’t know yet.” They gave me a shot of steroids and sent me home.

I honestly don’t even remember if I called and told Kyle on the way home, or if my grandma told him. But as soon as we got home I collapsed in his arms, in a puddle of tears. I’m not really sure how I possibly fell asleep that night, but I know God gave me a peace that I didn’t quite understand.

A trip to Seattle

The next morning the neurosurgeon’s office called and said that upon looking at the scans, he actually wanted to see me sooner. We went in that morning. When he showed me the image, it all became a little too real. And when I heard the words “It’s about the size of the shell of a walnut, and appears to have hemorrhaged.” I started having a complete meltdown. He referred me to a specialist in Seattle (Dr. Ferreira), and said I would be having surgery within the week.

I vividly remember signing the forms and paying my fee as I was leaving his office, and the tears that soaked each form as I tried to hurry out of there. I was relieved we had a plan, and terrified of what the next few days could bring.

That night, my grandma flew down to Arizona to help my mom and siblings drive home, and my dad flew into Seattle. My Bamma (my dad’s mom) also flew in and got us all hotel rooms in Seattle near the hospital, since I had an appointment with the specialist at 8 a.m. the next morning.

The next day was filled with appointment after appointment, scan after scan, doctor after doctor. I’m so thankful that they were so organized and even had someone that escorted me around from building to building. They had a whole itinerary for the day. All I had to do was listen, sign forms, have tests done, and try not to cry.

Dr. Ferreira informed me that my surgery was scheduled for 6 a.m. on Monday. It was all happening so quickly. And yet, I was glad it was happening that way, because the waiting would have been the worst part.

The surgery

I went home for the weekend, and tried to stay busy. My amazing team from work came to visit for the afternoon on Saturday, and we laughed and played games. On Sunday, we went to church and the whole congregation prayed for me. It still amazes me how many floods of emails, Facebook messages, and texts I got, from people letting me know that they were praying for me. It’s honestly what kept me going. As our pastor, Nate, said in service that week, “God is moved by the prayers of his people.”

On Monday, I got up, got ready, and we waited down in the quiet lobby for my family. I felt nervous, a little numb, and very at peace. Havensong came and sat next to me, and somehow knew exactly what I needed. She held my hand tightly, and looked up smiling. This was it. Time to head to the hospital.

I kept fairly calm until I was laying in the hospital bed, waiting to be brought into the Operating Room. Doctor after doctor came in to take blood, ask me questions, and do tests. They put in my I.V., and started hooking heart monitors to my chest. Kyle, my mom, and my dad, were all standing there. Tears were streaming down my face, but I tried to keep it together. They gave me a shot of pain/anxiety medication, and things started to fade away a little bit. I hugged my family goodbye, and they started rolling me away. Though they said I probably wouldn’t remember the O.R., I definitely do. I remember them transferring me onto a gel bed, and hooking up more heart-monitors.

And before I knew it, they were rolling me out. “Everything went beautifully,” I kept hearing them say. I felt nervous, and completely out of sorts. They parked me in a little curtain-surrounded area, and finally, Kyle came in.

They had probably already told me, but I had been so out of it up until that point. The scariest question was running through my head, but I felt numb for some reason. I finally got up the courage to ask, “Was it benign? . . .” “Yes,” he said, “Everything went perfectly. You even kept your pituitary gland.” I could finally rest easy and focus on recovering.

The recovery process + thank you!

After that I faced a few long, sleepless nights (of being woken up every hour for monitoring) in the hospital, and was sent home to rest. And after that I faced an ambulance ride and two E.R. visits. Recovery has been more difficult than I ever expected, and the actual surgery turned out to be the “easiest” part. I seriously could not have gotten through the past couple of weeks without my amazingly supportive and selfless family. They’ve been by my side every step of the way. I’m still dealing with some pain, with the side effects of different medications I’m on until my pituitary gland kicks back in, mood swings, tiredness, and just, getting back to normal. My anxiety has been sky-high, of course, but I’m expecting that to mostly subside once I’m out of this “2-week risk/healing” window, once I know that my head has healed correctly and I’m not quite so fragile anymore.

I’m just so thankful that God has brought me through this so faithfully. I’m also thankful to everyone who has sent cards, flowers, notes of encouragement, gifts, phone calls, texts, and meals. You’ve truly held us up in this trying time. Just know that I’ll be right here waiting to return the favor if the day ever comes. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Comments

  1. Tayler this is a beautiful story. I know God will continue to use it for years to come as you continually glean more and more wisdom from your experience. I think your anxiety is going to take a looong rest after you’ve had time to take everything in. Seeing the faithfulness of the Lord just does that! I’m praying Psalm 94:19 over you now…

  2. Bamma says:

    I relived all of this while reading your blog. It still hurts and puts me on edge. I am not one to shake when I am concerned about something, but I began to shake inside when your mom called to tell me what was going on. I continued to shake for over a week. I love you so much. I’ll be glad, too, when Monday afternoon comes and the two week wait will be over.

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