My story begins seven years ago, 2012, at Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. I was on a family vacation with my son and husband. We all had decided to ride a roller coaster and when I stepped off the ride, I had a migraine on the left side of my head. Well, needless to say, my vacation was over as I could not shake the headache. I travelled back home and sought out medical treatment.
I went to doctor after doctor because I was suffering from a migraine each and every day. No one knew what was wrong with me. I was misdiagnosed with Chiari. I finally found a doctor that recommended a second MRI. I had to travel a distance to see this doctor. I so remember the day that I found out I had a brain tumor. It seemed to happen in slow motion. The neurosurgeon stated that I had a brain tumor. It was an ependymoma. It was 2 centimeters and located in the 4th ventricle, and it was on my brain stem. It was also shared that the risks outweighed the benefits so unless the tumor were to grow, surgery was not an option. Please note that I still had migraines each and every day on the left side of my head, and the doctor felt that there was not a correlation with the migraines. If the tumor was removed, there was no guarantee that the migraines would stop. My husband and I went back to the hotel in silence. Once at the hotel, we cried together, and I named the tumor, Glenda. I felt that if you had something growing inside of your brain, it should have a name!
Each year, I would have an MRI and take the balance tests. The tumor was not growing. This was great news. However, each and every day, I had that headache. My quality of life was not the best. I missed work, family gatherings, and fun outings because of the migraine. In the fall of 2017, I went in for my routine visit only to find out that the tumor had grown.
I did not show any other signs that the tumor was affecting me. The plan was to watch the tumor more closely. I would have an MRI every six months instead of a year. By mid February 2018, I was vomiting a couple times a day, and the headaches were awful. I thought that this was all in my head, and I would just wait until my scheduled appointment to report this. I did not want to bother anyone. My husband saw my health declining, and he made me call to schedule my appointment earlier. At the beginning of March, it was determined the tumor was growing again, and I had hydrocephalus. Surgery was scheduled to remove the tumor from my brain stem. I was 51 years old and did not know what my future or if I would even have a future.
The surgery was 12 hours long. After surgery, I had to relearn how to speak, swallow, walk, and balance. I had double vision. I also could not subtract numbers. This drove me crazy! I had physical, occupational, and speech therapy. I underwent six weeks of proton radiation therapy because the tumor was determined to be a Grade III ependymoma. The neurosurgeon shared with me that if we had waited another week, I more than likely would have died from the hydrocephalus. I am thankful each and every day for being able to share my story with you.
Today, I have not had a headache/migraine since the day of my surgery. I am back at work full time and excited to back in the game. I am thankful for all of the care, prayers and support that was given to me. I am a survivor!
Michaeline Schmit | Survivor | Ependymoma