Tracie's Story

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January 29, 2013

My story began at the early age of 7. I remember my first headache; it was so bad it made me very sick. Throughout the years, the headaches continued and sometimes I had to go home and go to bed. I am 41 years old now and I want to tell you how faith has helped me.

I started going to a neurologist, and told him about my headaches. Most of the time, I would wake up early in the morning with a bad headache. Because of this, the doctor started treating me for migraine headaches. The medication he prescribed was having no effect on my headaches; they just seemed to be hurting worse and happening more often.

On March 3, 2008, I went to see another doctor because we moved. The new doctor reviewed the treatment plan of my previous doctor and continued to treat me for migraine headaches. The medicine was not helping. I was waking up with bad headaches and most of the time I had a headache all day. I knew I had to do something different. When the doctor said that he would like to try a different medication, I asked him if I could get an MRI instead. He said, "Sure. Do I think there is anything wrong? Absolutely not, but it never hurts to get one." As I was leaving the doctor's office, I received an order for the MRI. The instructions said it would have to be done a couple of days before the next appointment which was around the middle of May.

On April 3rd, my husband was off work so I decided if I could get in, I would have my MRI done (remember, I was the one requesting the MRI, and I really didn't have to get it done until the middle of May). I went for the MRI and during the test, the technician came in and told me they needed to give me contrast. When I asked her why, she said she had called the doctor and he wanted it. I said, "You must have seen something." She replied, "We need a clearer picture. Contrast is a dye they put into your vein through an IV needle. The dye makes the images appear a lot clearer." Suddenly, I was scared to death!

The very next morning, April 4, 2008, my doctor called me and said, "You have a brain tumor and I would like to send you to see a neurosurgeon in Birmingham or Gainesville." Within a couple of hours, he called me back and said an appointment was scheduled for April 8, 2008 to see a neurosurgeon. Before the appointment, I was trying to get ready, but I really didn't know what to get ready for.

On April 8, 2008, I went to the hospital, and I learned about the tumor. The neurosurgeon explained what would be involved in removing it. The tumor was called a Meningioma tumor and it was round like a ball, approximately 2.5" in diameter. The tumor was so large and pressing on the brain so much, that it had almost completely closed off the 4th ventricle. The part of the brain affected was called the cerebellum. The cerebellum controls your body’s coordination; it is like the connection between your brain and body. He said it would affect my balance, the ability to coordinate hand movements, and also my speech. He said that I would probably need to go through therapy. There were already three surgeries scheduled ahead for the following day, and I would be number 4 if I chose to go ahead with the surgery. He said he would leave and give us some time to think about it. But he warned us not to wait too long, as there was no way to tell how much longer the pressure would be too much on the 4th ventricle.

I began praying to ask God to show me. I had never been faced with a decision like this before in my life. I thought to myself, “How long? My 4th ventricle was almost closed; this was causing my headaches." I thought, “When I lay down at night, would the pressure build up on my brain because of the restricted 4th ventricle? How much longer before it completely closed off?”

The doctor's assistant came in and told me that if I wanted to go ahead with surgery, I could be scheduled second instead of fourth. We decided to go ahead with the surgery because we knew there was not much time.

The next morning, April 9th, I had surgery. The doctor said the surgery went well. He was able to remove about 98% of the tumor, leaving a small part of it that was attached to a blood vessel. The danger of damaging and hemorrhaging the vessel was greater than that of leaving the 2%. They released me to go home on April 13th.

On April 22nd, we returned back to the hospital to have the stitches removed. Two days later, on April 24th, the incision began to drain clear cerebral fluid from the area where the stitch had pulled. Then, the doctor became concerned about the pressure on my brain. He suggested that a shunt be placed in my head to drain off the excess fluid to keep the pressure from causing the incision to leak. I was terrified of the thought of having a shunt inside of me for the rest of my life! I asked the doctor if this was the only option and was it possible to stitch it back up and give it time to heal. Agreeing to this proposal, the doctor stitched it up. Almost 3 weeks later, we went back to the hospital and had the stitches removed the second time. The following day the incision began to leak again. It would stop for a while and then leak a little bit more. We tried different things to try to get it to stop and it seemed to be slowly improving, going longer periods without leaking. When it did, it would leak very little.

After almost 2 weeks, we realized that it was not going to stop. We returned to the hospital late on Friday night, May 23rd, where they began to check for infection. They had received the results from the lab that showed bacteria had begun to grow in the area of the incision. They took me into surgery where they reopened the incision and cleaned the infection out. The doctor later told me that I was fortunate that my body had formed a shield around my brain, and the shield had kept the infection from getting into my brain or my spinal fluid.

My body continued to produce too much cerebral spinal fluid which kept building pressure on my brain. On June 2nd, I went into surgery to have the shunt placed. During the installation of the tube into my abdomen, the gastroenterologist accidentally punctured a hole in the lining of my stomach. Praise God, on June 6th, 2008, we returned home.

On December 1, 2008, I went for my second MRI since the surgery. The assistant nurse said they were pleased with MRI results and that everything looked good. I asked her if she could tell if the tumor was completely gone. She said it was hard to tell, and we can't be 100% sure. I pray and believe the tumor is completely gone.

I cannot tell you why things happened the way they did, but I can tell you this. I am thankful to be alive and I know without a doubt God was with me throughout this time of my life. He walked with me, he carried me, and he strengthened me during this time. It has been 7 months since my last surgery and I am doing great. I have had no problems with coordination or balance at all. I have a job now, and it feels so good to be alive!