In the seventh episode of [unscripted], our patient video series, Laureen, a very busy teacher and mother of three, tells the story of how severe arm pain turned out to be a large brain tumor, and how she tackled treatment like she does all of life's challenges.
This is Laureen's story, in her own words ... unscripted.
Education was always very important to me and it was always very important to my parents. My father so believed in education that anybody who worked for him who wanted to go to college but couldn't afford to go to college, he would pay for them to go to Columbia State Community College. I so appreciate the fact that my father, not through telling me, but just by showing me that everybody has value and everybody has worth.
I graduated undergrad at Vandy, and got my first masters at there as well, before working in the foster care system. I worked with children who had significant emotional issues and loved it. Just absolutely loved it.
Starting a Family
It was very difficult for Dave and I to start a family. Rose Marie is actually an in vitro baby. We started going through fertility treatments probably six months after we got married. She was born and then they said, "Really, it would be best if you didn't have another child. It was really hard on your body." But we wanted to expand our family, so we went to Russia and we adopted a daughter from Russia. Lo and behold, I had wanted to go and adopt again. I said, "Let's go and adopt from Guatemala."
A week later, we found out we were pregnant with David. Having David has been a very incredible learning experience. We ended up finding out that he had severe hypertonia. He has a chromosomal abnormality. He has hypertonic cerebral palsy. He's nonverbal. He has ADHD. I said, "David is not going to be a victim. I need to take matters into my own hands and I'm going to homeschool him." I decided to pursue a second masters in special education at Xavier.
Rose Marie now is a senior at St. Ursula. Nadia is a freshman at Mount Notre Dame. David goes to Cincinnati Center for Autism.
More than Arm Pain
In March of last year, my mom had passed away. In the middle of April, I was doing a progress report and my hand wouldn't work. I knew what I wanted to put and I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn't put it on paper. I thought, "You know what? I think I'm just so stressed." Well, over the next few weeks, I noticed that my hand was a little swollen but I was so busy I couldn't call the doctor.
Finally, school ended at the beginning of June. My arm is in such pain. I can't move it. Like it's literally paralyzed. I called the doctor and I said, "You know, I'm having a lot of problems with my arm and my arm's very weak and very numb." I went to see a doctor. I have my MRI and he said, "Laureen, you have a massive tumor on the left side of your brain." My first thought was, "That's not possible. My life is really busy. I don't have time for a brain tumor." He goes, "Laureen, it's really serious. We need to get you in. We need to have surgery this week." He goes, "I'm going to call." He goes, "I've got a great neurosurgeon," and he told me about Mark Magner, MD
. He said, "I'm going to go call him. I'm calling him right now. We're going to get you in."
I think I only cried when he left the room, and I only cried because my first thought is, "What's going to happen with my children? If I have surgery, that means I'm going to be away from home." So, I felt bad because Rose Marie was starting her senior year on Thursday and I thought, "I can't be in the hospital when she's having the first day of her senior year. That's not fair to her. This is the most exciting time in her life."
In Great Hands
We saw Dr. Magner on Tuesday and the first person we saw is Faye, who's his nurse practitioner. She was just amazing. I mean, she went through, bit by bit, about my tumor. I remember just thinking, "This woman is just brilliant." Well, then Dr. Magner comes in. Every question I had, he was able to answer with just such clarity and just talking like a normal ... Not like doctor talk, but just like total and complete respect for me as a patient. I so appreciated that because I didn't need a doctor to talk three levels above me. I needed someone to talk to me because I said, "I have three children, and the youngest of which is not independent in any way, shape, or form. So, you got to know when you're opening up my brain, you have to know I have a son that needs me for the rest of his life." He said, "We're going to give you the best chance at living and fulfilling your life." I remember just leaving, just thinking, "You know what? I'm in great hands. There's really nothing for me to worry about."
Then I went in to the hospital Thursday morning and I made sure, because I have a very special, special friend who came in on Thursday morning, because I wanted Rose Marie, I wanted pictures of her on her first day of her senior year. I said to my friend, "Cathy," I said, "my surgery's not until 9. Rose Marie's leaving 6:45." I said, "So, as soon as she leaves, send me her picture. And I want to hold that picture before I go into surgery."
On the Other Side of the Bump in the Road
I remember they had given me an IV and he started talking to me and I had ended up falling asleep. Then the next thing I knew, it was Dr. Magner saying everything looked good. They were able to remove everything. So, I'm so lucky. I could not have asked for a better team. I certainly could have never asked for a better neurosurgeon. I look at this as a bump in the road to life. But it's taught me I need to take better care of myself, I need to go to the doctor, advocate more for my own health.
I've been discharged from all my therapy. I'm going back to work, which is exciting for me. They're just going to continue to monitor my head, monitor my brain. But I'm looking forward to getting back to all of my life.Learn more about how The Christ Hospital Joint & Spine Center, our regional destination for orthopedic, sports medicine, spine and neurosurgery, can you help you or someone you love.