It’s been exactly two weeks since I went to the optometrist where Trudy was [kind of] first identified. I figured since I never really posted the story, now would be a good time to do it.
First, many of you were wondering how Trudy was found. I have two stories to share. One is the short version and the other is the long. I will share both here and you can choose which one you’d like to read.
SHORT STORY: I had dizziness, slight hearing loss, and headaches for about a year. I went to the ENT last May, he said everything was fine, told me to do these exercises for “ear rocks” and I was on my way. Then most recently, I went to the optometrist for my annual vision test, being sure to complain about pressure in my head and dizziness, (per my mom’s advice). He noticed abnormalities with my vision screening, suggested I see a neuro-ophthalmologist. The neuro-ophthalmologist, too, noticed some pressure behind my eyes, and he ordered the MRI, MRI shows Trudy, etc. etc.
LONG STORY: (warning: this will be a very long post). Last May, I went to see an ENT because I felt very dizzy. My balance felt “off” and I noticed my hearing in my left ear was weakening as compared to my right. He did numerous tests including a balance test, hearing test, vision test, etc. and I passed them all. He diagnosed me with BPPV, or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, also known as “ear rocks.” He suggested I do these Brandt-Daroff exercises to loosen up the ear rocks, or calcium deposits, in my ear canal to get things moving and help with my dizziness. I tried doing them for about a week and it didn’t make a difference so I gave up.
I let a year pass, dealing with dizziness thinking it was normal and that’s just how I was supposed to feel. I honestly can’t remember what it is like to not feel dizzy! When I would go running, everything moved and took a second to shift into place. When my mom and I would walk the dogs and she told me to look at a house on our left, I would glance, get really dizzy, and start shifting that way. These things were NOT normal, but I overlooked them. Most recently, my mom and I rode bikes to Mariano’s and I literally could not balance. I felt as though I forgot how to ride a bike. It was the strangest sensation; yet again, I thought it was normal and that’s just how my life was going to be.
So that brings us to two weeks ago, July 1. I was due for more contacts and my annual eye exam, so I made an appointment with the Costco optometrist. My mom went with me because I thought I needed her badge to get me in. Turns out I could’ve just walked in, but, thank God she came with me! After doing a few pre-screening tests, I went in to see the doctor. He asked what my prescription was around and I said -2.00 in the L and -2.50 in the R. (You glasses people will understand this). He did my screening, looked at my glasses through a machine, and looked completely baffled. For lack of better words, I said, “WHAT?!” He replied calmly that my vision had IMPROVED. I could now see with -.75 in both eyes and my contacts and glasses were much too strong for my eyes. No wonder I was getting headaches! After he called me “superwoman” and had me feeling great, he said he wanted to do one other test. This is when everything got serious. He took images of my retinal wall and said, “Oh boy, Kelly. I think we have a big problem. Is your mom here?” I started to immediately shake (this seems to be my norm lately—hopefully not a forever-thing!) and my mom came in the room to see the images. The optometrist stated my optic nerve was very swollen and he felt as though “something was behind it—could be fluid, or it could be….a tumor.” He suggested we see a neuro-ophthalmologist ASAP and I’ll never forget the look he gave my mom. He said something along the lines of, “Mom, don’t brush over this. I’m serious. She needs to see a neuro-ophthalmologist immediately.” Here is a picture of my optic nerve.
The next, day my wonderful nurse/neighbor/saint, Mrs. Heatley, got me in to see a neuro-ophthalmologist at the hospital where she works. He was a soft-spoken, overly-intelligent (as all doctors are) doctor that made me feel at ease. He said my vision screening went very well, but, that he too, would have to do some other tests to solve this problem I was having. His assistant performed all kinds of tests including some really high-tech eye pressure test. The results printed out of the machine, and we walked back to the doctor’s room. My doctor looked at the results and took a deep breath. [Once more, my shaking begins]. “What did your optometrist tell you again?” he asked. I responded by telling him my optometrist had said I had papilledema, or swelling of my optic nerve, and that something was causing it, whether it be fluid or a tumor. He stated my optometrist was pretty dead on and showed me how the pressure behind my eyes on my results was completely off the charts- well above the norm. He suggested I get an MRI to find out what was back there, because something definitely was.
I was able to get in for an MRI that evening, around 4, which took around an hour. I had never gotten an MRI before so I was really, really nervous. I guess working in a hospital you become used to procedures, but I felt like every hospital staff member was just like, “oh MRI? Ok, this way,” or “yeah, you have the MRI in an hour,” almost brushing it off. It’s like how I feel when people are buying a house. I’m like, “oh my goodness, make a damn decision, it’s not a big deal!” Luckily, they had an MRI available which allowed more space for my claustrophobic body. Moses, the MRI tech, was so sweet and even asked what music I wanted to listen to while getting the scan. In his Island-accent he said, “Oh Kelly, we have evvverything!” I said, “Ok, I like oldies. That’d be fine.” So the scan is about to start and I hear, “I got a feeling, that tonight’s gonna be a good night….” BLACK-EYED PEAS! I was major lol-ing inside and wanted to dance but then quickly remembered to hold still! Moses checked in on me after every scan to make sure I was doing okay and before I knew it, it was over. Pretty painless.
Moses told me the radiologist was looking at another scan but that mine was next and he wanted to look at it before we left for the day. Again, thank goodness we waited! My mom and I just sat in the radiology department waiting, and waiting. With each minute I got a little more nervous. Then the radiologist came out, completely straight-faced with the typed up report in hand. I stood up to shake his hand and he responds, “Oh, no please have a seat. You’ll want to be sitting for this.” [Commence: severe shaking]. CANCER! DEATH! Those were just a few ideas that ran through my head in that millisecond, aside from “What am I on the set of Grey’s Anatomy or something? This man is being SO dramatic, ugh!” He delivered the news as best as he could. To be honest, I think I blacked out so I don’t totally remember what he said besides saying I had a TUMOR and that it was big, 4 cm by 4 cm, about. He proceeded to tell me from the look of it, he thought it was outside the brain and slow-growing, two major positives, but then he suggested, I go to the ER. WTF?! Now I was scared.
(Note: this is not Trudy, but she is similar in size to this acoustic neuroma I googled).
Shaking uncontrollably, while trying to comfort my mom, we walked to the ER with Mrs. Heatley. My dad got there quickly and we started to make “the calls” to family members. Again, I think I was blacked out for most of this because I don’t remember much. That day was a whirlwind to say the least! The ER staff ran all kinds of tests and had me admitted. For hours, I laid in my ER bed, hooked up to an IV, no food or water, but with visitors (can’t be totally negative about all this!) and we waited to hear from a neurosurgeon at a neighboring hospital to see if emergency surgery (WTF again!!) would be required. The ER doctor waltzed in and said “So, I received some good news. We had two neurosurgeons look at Kelly’s scan and they are 99% sure it is an acoustic neuroma, which is a slow-growing, benign tumor.” My dad’s response? “That’s not good news! That’s GREAT news!” and gave the doc a big handshake. Again I was like, “am I on a TV show set?” I went home that night, the end.
I could give more and more details, but I think that’s long enough for the long story! So that’s the full story of how Trudy the Rude Tumor was found. Everything else from that day forward was doctor’s appointments and loads of information, but most importantly, I chose the two men who will be performing Trudy’s removal and death. I will NOT miss her! Thank you guys, so, so much for your continued support. Now I will resume my position of laying down, watching TV, and hanging with my nurses for the day, Nurse Ryan and Nurse Gomez.