I awakened with intense facial ache. It was a mind tumor that had been slowly rising for 10 years.

  • I awakened at some point in 2020 with excessive ache in the appropriate aspect of my face. 
  • I used to be identified with trigeminal neuralgia, advised there was no remedy, and referred to a neurologist.
  • However an MRI revealed a benign mind tumor; after surgical procedure and a protracted restoration, I am now pain-free.

In July 2020, after the pandemic began and we had been locked down, I awakened with an intense ache on the appropriate aspect of my face. I might all the time been wholesome and had by no means skilled something like this; I knew this was not excellent news.

I used to be in a position to schedule a digital name with a health care provider the next day and described my signs to him. I used to be primarily experiencing intense ache that felt like electrical shocks on the appropriate aspect of my face anytime I’d transfer my facial muscular tissues. Consuming, speaking, and laughing all turned very painful.

He identified me with trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic-pain situation.

“There is no such thing as a remedy for this situation, so the very best factor we will do is that will help you handle the ache,” the physician stated. “I’ll suggest you to a neurologist who shall be following you for the remainder of your life.”

I might all the time performed all the pieces I might to keep away from a well being scare like this

I used to be in full shock. For years, my focus had been on wholesome consuming, abstaining from alcohol and low, getting seven hours of sleep every evening, and exercising and meditating every day, all with a purpose to be wholesome and filled with vitality. I had additionally lately launched an organization targeted on holistic-well-being know-how, and we had been working with varied massive shoppers.

Balancing my function as a spouse and mom with two youngsters, and as a newly minted CEO, was already not simple — now this. I used to be fearful about how I used to be going to handle, however nothing might have ready me for what got here subsequent.

I made an appointment with a neurologist. By the point our appointment rolled round and so they confirmed the analysis, the ache had intensified to a degree that I used to be afraid to eat, discuss, and even smile.

The physician advised me I had a benign tumor and that given its measurement and form, it had doubtless been rising for 10 to fifteen years. This tumor was the reason for my power ache because it was urgent on the trigeminal nerve, also called the facial nerve, in my mind. I used to be left in shock, but once more.

MRI image of Andreea Vanacker's brain tumor

MRI picture of Andreea Vanacker’s mind tumor.

Andreea Vanacker

“Surgical procedure is the one choice, given the tumor’s measurement,” my neurologist stated.

I used to be with my husband once I bought the information, and I used to be speechless. We determined to not inform our youngsters till we knew extra concerning the dangers of the surgical procedure — which included partial facial paralysis and epilepsy — and had time to seek the advice of with a number of different neurosurgeons.

It turned out the tumor had been rising for over 10 years

Throughout this time, I requested one neurosurgeon to evaluation an MRI of my mind that I had performed 10 years prior. The evaluation was a part of an in-depth well being check-up to see if the tumor was already there at the moment. Surprisingly, it was, however it was utterly missed by the medical doctors that I used to be consulting with at the moment, because it had been considerably smaller. This was once I understood how advanced it was to research a mind MRI, partially due to irregular tumor sizes and shapes. Now there are artificial-intelligence instruments that assist medical doctors analyze MRIs and equally advanced scans to keep away from lacking even the smallest tumors.

As I used to be studying about mind surgical procedure, it turned clear that working on the a part of the physique that controls all the pieces from respiratory to motion, speech, reminiscence, and consciousness could be a really delicate and dangerous surgical procedure. Even a really small mistake might trigger catastrophic injury.

I stored pondering: “Which neurosurgeon will I belief with my life?”

After digital consultations with a number of neurosurgeons — together with just a few worldwide choices — I noticed I had no selection however to decide on a neighborhood surgeon for the reason that borders had been closed amid the amplification of the pandemic. I bought a referral from my neurologist to the very best neurosurgeon in our space, although I used to be warned it might take a while to see him due to his fame.

Once I met with my neurosurgeon for the primary time, in September 2020, I used to be actually trembling as he described the operation. He talked about there was a threat of facial paralysis, provided that my tumor was urgent on my facial nerve.

All I needed to do was spend time with my household earlier than the surgical procedure

I bear in mind telling my husband that if something went flawed with the surgical procedure and I used to be left in a coma — which was the one final result I might consider on the time, aside from success or fatality — I did not need to be a burden to him or our youngsters. I felt as if I’d relatively die than that. I needed to let my household proceed residing.

“For me, life is about cherishing every second with you and the youngsters,” I advised him.

After that dialog, all my successes, possessions, roles, and titles turned irrelevant. The one factor that mattered was time: time with my household and time to cherish the life I might constructed with them.

I stored pondering to myself, “If these are the final moments of my life, I need to get pleasure from them with all my coronary heart, and I don’t want my youngsters and husband to recollect me as a sufferer of my tumor.”

This was all nonetheless earlier than the COVID-19 vaccines had been accessible, and we hadn’t seen many individuals in particular person but. I needed to share the information with associates, relations, and enterprise companions over digital calls. However I usually bought so emotional throughout these calls that I made a decision to cease spreading the information and focus as an alternative on conserving my constructive vitality and making ready for the surgical procedure whereas I used to be present process further MRIs and assessments.

Throughout this time, one of many assessments confirmed that my vestibular system, which facilitates our bodily steadiness after we stroll, had been utterly squeezed by the tumor, which defined why I used to be additionally beginning to have steadiness points. In October, I had a ultimate session with the neurosurgeon, and the surgical procedure was scheduled for simply over one week later.

Andreea Vanacker after surgery

Andreea Vanacker after surgical procedure.

Andreea Vanacker

The surgical procedure was successful, however restoration was lengthy and painful

On November 9, 2020, my nine-hour mind operation started at 7 a.m. I can’t even think about how lengthy that day will need to have been for my relations. Once I lastly awakened the subsequent day within the intensive-care unit, the neurosurgeon got here to see me.

“How are you feeling, and may you smile at me?” he requested.

Regardless of the immense ache that I used to be in, I used to be in a position to smile. I couldn’t consider it. I realized that he’d efficiently eliminated the totality of the mind tumor with none injury to my facial nerve, and I used to be in complete awe — and reduction.

Postsurgery was very difficult. I left the hospital with a walker, and it took a number of weeks for my steadiness normalize. I had physiotherapists serving to me get well over digital appointments and common follow-ups with the neurosurgeon. About two months after the surgical procedure, the medical doctors helped me taper off the ache treatment I used to be taking for the trigeminal neuralgia, because the nerve’s irritation subsided due to the elimination of the tumor.

5 months after the surgical procedure, the neurosurgeon approved me to start out progressively exercising at a really low tempo. It took me one yr to construct as much as the identical stage of train I might been doing earlier than the surgical procedure. The cranium ache from the operation subsided about 18 months after the operation, and I turned stronger and extra resilient every single day.

It was probably the most difficult instances of my life, and my husband and youngsters helped me by it. I additionally had assist from my dad and mom, my two brothers, and my great associates, who all enveloped me with a lot love and fixed phrases of encouragement. This expertise created deeper bonds between us, and I now have a better appreciation of life.

All I need to do is dwell my life with pleasure and produce pleasure to others.