Kendra's Story

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February 28, 2008

The terrifying night in the ER that saved my life.

It started out as a normal day. I woke up next to my handsome fiancée, Tony, got ready for work, had a good day and came home. It was a normal day. We had a tasty dinner and jumped on our comfy couch to watch one of our favorite shows, One Tree Hill. About 15 minutes into the show, I had an urge to call my mom and ask her about some horrible headaches and a little stiffness in my neck that I had been suffering with for about two weeks. I never really thought much about the headaches. I thought, “Everyone has headaches,” and with the stress of learning a new job and planning a very big wedding, I just assumed that all the stress and headaches were typical. Another reason why I didn't worry was because my body was going through hormonal changes. My doctor had suggested that I switch to a different brand of birth control pills because the hormone level of the pills played a big part in my headaches. After two to three weeks, I started doing some research on the internet. I searched things like "changes in birth control" and then I went to search a more serious topic "brain aneurysms." I am a very cautious person and I don’t like to let anything that's bothering me slip my mind. To me, it is always better to be safe, than sorry.

On February 28th, when I called my mom, I asked her if brain aneurysms ran in our family. She replied, "No, why Kendra?" I told her that I was having horrible headaches and that I was worried that aneurysms may be why I feel the way I do. She continued asking me questions about my pain. When I revealed to her that my neck was stiff and that I had a little dizziness at times, she told me to go to the Emergency Room. After about five minutes of discussing it over with Tony, we decided to go.

Tony, my mom and I sat in the waiting room in the ER just laughing and cracking jokes. The doctor came in and suggested that we do a CT-Scan. After making my mom and Tony almost die of laughter, the radiology nurse came into the room. I was a little nervous, but didn't think much of it. He wheeled me into the room and I got on the bed.  He said it should only take a few minutes. The few minutes passed, and passed... then at last he was done. The first thing he said to me was, "Now how long have you been having headaches?" Right then I knew in my heart something was wrong! I answered him and said, "Only two weeks, WHY?" Then he said, “You don’t want to know what I think. The radiologist will have to give you his opinion.” He took me back to my room. Tony was in there, but my mom had stepped out to take a call. Once the door was shut, I lost it. All I can remember is just crying and having a hard time catching my breath. I was trying to explain to Tony what the radiology nurse had told me. Tony calmed me down, told me not to worry and that the radiologist would come in soon with the results. Finally, I calmed down, but I still knew that something was wrong. My mom came back into the room and we continued to wait.

Then we heard a knock on the door, and the doctor walked in. I can still remember a very vivid image of exactly how he looked- from his facial expression to his scrubs. Then, he shut the door, put his hands together and said, "This is the hardest part of his job."

My heart felt like it dropped to my feet. My body felt cold as he began to explain to us that I had a brain tumor. He then suggested that we call our family doctor immediately for a referral to a neurosurgeon.

After we met with the neurosurgeon, I was told that I would need surgery the next Monday. I had a bumpy time in the hospital. I had surgery, was then transferred to the ICU, and then to a regular room. I planned to be in the hospital for 4 days, and ended up staying for 10. During surgery, the doctor went in to remove my tumor and found a ruptured cyst the size of a plum. When this happened, my brain shifted all the way to the left and the doctors lost their "image guidance system". Basically, they lost their instruction manual. It was the surgeon's decision to close me back up instead of removing the entire tumor. According to the doctor, I was a walking time-bomb.  He couldn’t believe that my only symptoms were headaches, and a little stiff neck. 

The next morning, my dad broke the news to me that I would need another surgery. It would have been so easy to break down, but I didn't think that feeling pity for myself or crying would do me any good. I was so strong. I just kept my chin up and kept praying. The power of prayer was where I found my comfort through all of this.

When my surgeon came in and presented the second surgery as an "option,” I said, "Ok let's do it." I didn't see another choice! I thought, “God pulled me through one, he can pull me through another.” 48 hours later, I was told that I'd be able to leave in a few days. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. During my time at the hospital, I got diagnosed with a colon disease, had a high fever and had to wear an oxygen mask. Finally, on Thursday, March 13th, I was free and able to go home!

Right now, my tumor is gone, and I feel well. I was diagnosed with a slow growing non-cancerous Juvenile Polycystic Astrocytoma (JPA) on my cerebellum. I have some calcium left on my brainstem from the surgery. My doctors say that this is something that can't be removed, because it's "god's country." I will have to get CT scans for the rest of my life to make sure that no more tumors grow. This part is scary, but I pray God will take care of me- tumor or no more tumors.

I have an amazing family, and I can’t thank God enough for ALL OF THEM! My mom and my fiancée, Tony never left me during my whole time in the hospital and my dad always made sure that I had EVERYTHING I could possibly want! They stuck by my side through it all, and I love them very much. I'm very lucky to have them. My surgeon and his staff were all amazing and simple thanks is not enough.

God is amazing.