One More Day A Brain Tumor Survivor's Story

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Brain Tumors

Judy MacDougall, Brain Tumor Suvivor

Judy MacDougall (pictured left) reflects on her life as a brain tumor survivor and why she is grateful for one more day.


In December 2005, I had a craniotomy for a meningioma. I never pictured myself as ever having a brain tumor. Not me! But there I was with just that.


I had severe headaches for many months. I had been so depressed I could hardly get out of bed. Only when my husband came home from work could I make myself get up.


Then I thought I was having a sinus headache, or an infection. I usually had two to three sinus infections every year. So I made an appointment with my regular ENT doctor.


He reviewed my last sinus CAT scan and thought it didn't look quite right. He took another scan. As he and the resident doctor were reviewing it, I was leaning down to look up at the screen between them and I see this big round circle in the scan. As an RN, I know that's not supposed to be there. But what was it? 


The doctor came and sat down in front of me, and gently told me I had a brain tumor. He thought it was a meningioma, and that it was a benign tumor. He set me up for an immediate appointment with a brain surgeon. I had thought these symptoms were just a result of my past traumatic syndrome disorder from a previous injury.


The brain tumor surgeon took an MRI of my brain. My husband and I went together to the appointment to talk to the brain tumor surgeon and review the MRI.  When my husband saw the MRI he said "it's huge." The image filled up a large section of the frontal brain. Technically it was in the olfactory area, this is where the nerve for smell rested. The tumor was also very close to the nerve for sight.


Surgery was scheduled, which went very well. The tumor was entirely removed. I lost my sense of smell after surgery, but had the tumor been allowed to continue to grow, I could also have lost my sight. I was doing so well the surgeon was going to send me home a day early, but the resident forgot to write the order and I stayed the usual three days. Three days! Brain surgery and I go home in three days! If it comes back in fifteen years maybe by then it will be outpatient surgery?


After recovery, I began going to the brain tumor support group. A wonderful help! I was with other people who had also had a brain tumor. The stories and the support from these other people were so inspiring. And the three leaders? I can't say enough about how helpful they were. I have continued to do well. I do have some memory problems, my balance is still a little off, but I've survived and these are minor consequences. I'm alive!


The diagnosis of a brain tumor doesn't have to be the end of the world. Yes, I am grateful for every day, for the friends I've made in the support group, and for the leaders who helped me through some hard, scary times. Since my surgery the depression is gone. The headaches are gone. These were all symptoms of my tumor. I can, after five years, still get teary-eyed talking about this road I've traveled. But there was a rainbow at the end of it.