Lisa D's Story

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January 29, 2013

At 39 weeks pregnant, I had a full seizure only to discover that it was caused by a brain tumor in my right frontal lobe.

After having a full, healthy 9 months of pregnancy, at week 39, I had a full tonic-clonic seizure in July of 2007. Luckily, I was at home when it happened and my husband was there to call for help right away. Upon reaching the hospital and checking for the baby's health, I was rushed to take several CAT and MRI scans. They discovered a mass in my right frontal lobe, but couldn't be certain of its malignancy until after I gave birth.

At the time I couldn't believe or understand what they were saying. I had done everything I was supposed to do while pregnant - ate all the right foods, went to all my check-ups, exercised, etc. The shock on my face as well as on my husband's was incomprehensible. I had no symptoms of what they described. No headaches, no dizziness, no visual problems.

Despite the shock, we tried to focus on the happiness of having our first baby. With the help of our family and some very kind nurses, we were thrilled to bring a big healthy baby boy into our lives. I had to have a C-section in order to not put pressure on my brain so my desire to try natural child birth was forsaken. I was very sad to not have the ideal labor that I had always dreamed of or read about. I didn't get to say "honey, it's time" or feel the contractions or do the breathing. I didn't get to try giving my baby breast milk because I was afraid the anti-seizure medication would be passed to him no matter what the doctors said.

And though it was extremely difficult, I am still dealing with symptoms of post-traumatic childbirth, the only way I could move on and look at things positively was to say and believe that my baby had saved my life. If it wasn't for him, I might never have found out about the tumor until it was too late.

After finding an excellent and compassionate neurosurgeon, I learned that it was actually quite common for tumors to be discovered during pregnancy because of the elevated hormone and blood levels. Though it was hard to find this comforting, it helped to affirm that my baby had indeed saved me and that he truly was and is a gift from God.

After studying my scans, my doctor concluded that the tumor was most likely an oligodendroglioma and because it was at the top of my right frontal lobe he immediately suggested I have it removed. My husband and I agreed completely. So on December 7 2007, I had surgery to remove the tumor. My doctor's prognosis was correct and the tumor was between a grade II and III oligodendroglioma. Everything went successfully and after only a week or so I was slowly getting some Christmas shopping done. By January 2 2008, I was back at work. All MRIs since have been clear. My hair is even growing back along the scar line.

It was certainly and still has been an emotional roller coaster to have to raise a baby, go back to work, and function on a daily basis with the knowledge that there was something inside me that could potentially kill me, yet feel no symptoms of sickness. I thought it to be the strangest illness. Alongside my confusion, I had mixed feelings of fear of death coupled with the joy of being a mom. My heart would melt when looking into my son’s eyes at one moment only to break down minutes later not knowing whether I would be alive to watch him grow up.

I hope no woman has to suffer what I have been through. Luckily, I had the incredible support of my husband who made sure I received all the help and care I needed. My family was very strong for me even when I couldn’t be strong for myself. I had an excellent best friend who was like the sister I never had. She comforted me before and after surgery. Another source of support, which ironically didn’t come until after my surgery, was a renewed closeness with God. I turned mostly to Him to say thank you for a second chance at life, for a first chance at being a mother and also for guidance on how to lead a better life after recovery.

I recommend to any woman who has experienced something similar to turn to the ones that they are closest with because no matter what, this is too hard to get through alone. Seeking the support of others, even a therapist, has helped and is continuing to help me work through some of the mental and emotional pain I have been feeling from this traumatic experience.

Some things that I’ve learned from talking to others and from my own self-reflection and prayer is that life is too short to be bitter and angry. Forgiveness is not over-rated and love is a divine thing that should always be appreciated. Hope can be scary because of its uncertainty, but if you believe in it, and pray for it, things can happen. And last but not least, give thanks for what you do have and for each day you are here on this earth.

Through days of hardship, joy, fear, and happiness I have learned to thank God for each and every day I am on this earth and to try to be a better person. This has not been easy. My medications had side effects and I sank into a deep depression a few months after surgery where I became suicidal. My marriage had and still is unbelievably strained. However, I do believe that God had me survive for a reason. I might not know what it is, but I give thanks and hope that someday I can help and support someone else.