My meningioma surgery: Appreciating the gift of sight
My meningioma story began on a sunny and hot afternoon with a bright blue, cloudless sky.
As I crossed a parking lot, I looked up, closed one eye and noticed that the sky seemed dark and grey. Then, I closed my left eye. The sky looked bright blue. I closed my right eye again and saw grey. I made an appointment with my optometrist the following Monday.
My meningioma diagnosis
It turned out that the problem wasn't in my eye. It was behind my eye. My optometrist sent me to a neuro-ophthalmologist.
After an MRI and other tests, I got my diagnosis -- meningioma, a noncancerous tumor, on my optic nerve. The doctor said the tumor was inoperable and recommended targeted radiation.
Because meningioma is slow-growing, the doctor also recommended waiting a month for another MRI.
None of this seemed like a good idea to me. I didn't want to put off another MRI, and I was nervous about radiation.
My daughter and two friends suggested I go to MD Anderson. I immediately nixed their idea. MD Anderson was only for cancer patients, I told them. But when I looked online, I learned that MD Anderson treats both cancerous and non-cancerous skull base tumors like meningioma.
Choosing MD Anderson for meningioma treatment
The next week, I had an MRI at MD Anderson. Five days later, my care team presented my treatment plan.
One surgeon talked about trying a surgical procedure that had never been done before.
Shaan Raza, M.D., and Shirley Su, M.D., would perform the surgery. First, Dr. Su would correct a deviated septum and make a path to the tumor through my nose and sinuses. Dr. Raza would expose the optic nerve, and then he and Dr. Su would remove the tumor.
I looked at my husband and said, "They are talking about removing this surgically!" We were ecstatic. I had complete confidence in my team and couldn't wait to be tumor-free.
My meningioma surgery
I had the surgery just a week later. I couldn't believe how quickly MD Anderson coordinated everything.
The night before the surgery, Dr. Raza said he would do everything he could to save my sight. He would try not to harm the nerve near the tumor, but he reminded me that the nerve was very sick. I shouldn't expect it to recover. I told Dr. Raza that a lot of people were praying for me and that my faith in a 100% recovery was not changing. He said he liked my optimism.
Recovering from my meningioma surgery
The procedure went exactly as planned. After I woke up, Dr. Raza asked what I saw. I looked at the white board on the wall and told him it looked a little lighter, but the room was dim so I couldn't be sure.
Before surgery, one of my symptoms was color variation, which meant red looked orange with my left eye. So, Dr. Raza rushed to get an American flag. "Now, what do you see?" he asked. I covered my left eye. The stripes looked red. I covered my right eye and looked with my left. "Red!" I told him.
Everyone in the room was elated. My nurses wouldn't let me speak anymore; they were having a hard time keeping my blood pressure down.
I was released three days after surgery. The next two weeks were extremely trying. I had splints in my nose to protect the areas from which they had harvested skin, and I couldn't breathe through my nostrils. I was prescribed steroids, which kept me awake.
Once the splints were removed, I slept better. For a while, I lost my sense of smell and taste, but they slowly returned.
My eyes also continued to improve. The nerve returned to a healthy shade of pink. Since the tumor was non-cancerous and the MRI after surgery shows no tumor left behind, I don't need any more treatment. I just get MRI scans to make sure my vision keeps improving and that my tumor doesn't come back.
A reason to celebrate
My husband and I now saw what was really important in our lives. We celebrated with a trip to Hawaii. We'd been putting off that trip for years, and, without my meningioma diagnosis, we probably would've kept putting it off.
I thank my own family and friends who prayed me through to good health.
I also thank God for directing us to MD Anderson. It is the most caring, professional, and overall best place to be for medical treatment. Every time I see beauty through my eyes, I am reminded of my miracle and how fortunate I was to be treated at MD Anderson, where I received hope for great eyesight and a healthy, long life.