Rose Gilligan

Two years ago, my story starts. I was having ringing in my ear so I went to an ENT. Hearing was normal, so they thought it was allergies. Went back to a different ENT a few months later, hearing still fine, attributed the ringing to noise damage – I could buy that. Fall of 2016 I went back as my hearing was getting worse and indeed it was. The ENT ordered an MRI and there it was. A Meningioma the size of a lime in a very precarious position, bumping against my brain stem, weaved in and around 9 of 12 nerves and made its way into my ear canal.

The tumor was described as very rare, complicated, and difficult. Ok, no big deal, I’ve got this. A 13-hour surgery occurred on Jan 10, 2017 which removed 60% of the tumor. I did not know what to expect from any of this but I kept a positive attitude, prayed a lot, and had an incredible support system. Those nerves, well, most of the 9 were impacted. I lost my hearing in my right ear, I lost half of my balance (vestibular) system, I had facial paralysis, vocal cord issues impacting both speech and swallowing, and double vision. But my positive attitude, prayer and incredible support continued to work its magic.

Recovery those first few weeks was difficult between all the meds and dealing with the pain of the incision that runs from the top of my head to below my ear, but I wear it proud. At the 4 week mark, the neurosurgeon cleared me to work out, stop all the meds, etc. He was extremely impressed by my recovery. He made a point to say I was in his top 3 most difficult surgeries in a career spanning 29 years and 4,000+ surgeries. Yep – that’s me!

We talked about my recovery going well because of two things – my physical health/fitness and my drive/mental attitude. You may not be a fitness nut like I am, but I promise you this – if you can keep a positive mental attitude, embrace the journey, and know that there is a Greater Being in your life, you can get through anything. At 10 weeks, I have returned to work, my balance is back to 85+% (was probably not at 100% when I started, given the location of the tumor). My double vision is getting better, and my swallowing/voice are continuing to improve. I’m ready to run a 5K on April 1st and have returned to all of my regular fitness activities.

I’m extremely blessed. I’ve never given up hope and tried my best to not have a bad day (I’ve had a few). I am beginning 28 sessions of radiation in the next week, not sure what that will bring but I’ll go with a smile on my face and will continue to enjoy this journey I have been placed on. If someone reads this and is going through something similar and wants to share stories, hopes, or fears, I’m always available and can be reached at ssminnow912@att.net.