In the fall of 2008, 20-year-old Tania was a young woman without a care in the world. She was working as a medical/surgery technician at Carondelet St. Joseph’s Hospital and dating a midshipman at the Naval Academy.
But she began suffering from a persistent earache that refused to go away. With the pain, came severe headaches and vomiting. She thought she had a nasty ear infection, but her prescribed antibiotics did not help. So she went to an ear, nose and throat specialist, who ordered an MRI.
Her doctors called later the same day. This was no ear infection, they told her. It was a brain tumor.
“I’ve never been more scared in my life,” Tania recalls.
The neurosurgeons and specialists at Carondelet Neurological Institute (CNI), on the campus of St. Joseph’s Hospital, explained that the tumor had to be removed quickly. Located behind Tania’s ear, it could be fatal.
Dr. Hillel Baldwin, a specialist in skull base neurosurgery at CNI, removed the majority of Tania’s tumor on April 3, 2009. It was an incredibly complex procedure that took place in one of CNI’s two state-of-the-art iCT BrainLAB suites. Sixty percent of the tumor could be surgically removed. It was enough to dramatically change Tania’s prognosis and chances of survival.
“I felt so comfortable,” notes Tania on her experience at CNI. “I knew that Dr. Baldwin and his team were using the very latest technology.”
Tania spent almost two weeks in the Institute’s Neurological Critical Care Unit and in-patient unit before she was transferred to inpatient rehab.
A few months later, the second portion of Tania’s treatment began. In July 2009, Dr. David Frye, a radiation oncology specialist from CNI’s Brain and Spine Tumor Center and Dr. Eric Sipos, medical director of the institute, began treating the remaining 40 percent of Tania’s tumor with a procedure called stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS).
Stereotactic radiosurgery delivers highly targeted, high-energy radiation to cancerous and benign tumors in the brain and spine. Because the radiation can be delivered with great precision, the healthy tissue surrounding the tumor is not damaged. For SRS, CNI uses the Novalis Tx, one of the most advanced systems available in the field of radiation oncology and the first of its kind in Arizona.
Tania underwent SRS treatments for five days. “The equipment was so interesting,” she says. “Every one of my doctors made me feel so comfortable and safe. I love them all.”
The SRS treatments successfully controlled her tumor’s growth. Although the tumor affected the hearing in one of Tania’s ears, she has no other residual effects.
“Now, I live a life like any regular college student,” Tania says. And that navy midshipman? They’re engaged..