By: Antoinette S. Johnson
Back in 2007, I found out that I had a goiter and nodules on the right side of my thyroid gland. I discovered this when I felt a lump in my throat when I swallowed. God was in the midst and directed me to see my doctor.
I did some research and explained to the doctor what I felt when I swallowed and asked her if the thyroid could be the problem. The doctor said the thyroid has nothing to do with problems swallowing. I was not comfortable with her diagnosis, so I decided to get a second opinion.
The doctor who gave me the second opinion confirmed that the thyroid could potentially cause problems with swallowing, and he recommended that I see an endocrinologist he recommended. I was told initially that the endocrinologist was not accepting new patients, however he accepted me as a new patient.
God definitely opens doors when necessary, and I was able to see that doctor within a month. He sent me for a thyroid ultrasound, bloodwork, and did a fine needle aspiration (FNA), which is a biopsy of the thyroid. The results of the FNA determined that I didn’t have thyroid cancer, however I had nodules on the right side of the thyroid. He suggested we monitor it, and he started me on levothyroxine sodium, which is a hormone to keep the thyroid gland regulated.
Through regular annual checkups that included bloodwork, FNAs, and ultrasounds, in 2013, my endocrinologist discovered that there was a potential problem with my thyroid, so he recommended that I see a thyroid surgeon for further evaluation. The thyroid surgeon sent me for a CT scan to determine the next course of action.
After the CT scan, one evening at 7:00 pm, I got a call from the thyroid surgeon, which was very unusual because doctors don’t call patients in the evening unless it is urgent. The doctor wanted me to go for a consultation with a neurosurgeon because the CT scan revealed that something was in the area of my brain that needed evaluation.
I went to see the neurosurgeon who sent me for an MRI to look at the area in question. The results showed that there was indeed a problem – a meningioma in the right upper portion of my brain near the nerves in my right eye. Meningiomas are usually benign brain tumors that can cause various problems if they are not removed. Subsequently, the neurosurgeon
scheduled a craniotomy to remove the meningioma.
The thyroid surgeon wanted to be sure that he could proceed with the partial thyroidectomy prior to the craniotomy, and the neurosurgeon authorized that the thyroid surgeon could perform the partial thyroidectomy prior to the craniotomy. In 2013, both surgeries were scheduled and performed.
I was asked by people if I experienced headaches or other forms of discomfort with respect to the meningioma. Truthfully, I did not experience any problems with the meningioma and would not have known it was there if the initial CT scan for my thyroid hadn’t been done. Nothing is by coincidence, and God’s timing is always amazing.
I had the craniotomy in November 2013. The neurosurgeon, who was extremely gifted in the field went over the plan of action for the removal and my recovery. I felt completely safe in his care with no fear.
The surgery was a success! The neurosurgeon removed the entire meningioma, and all I needed to do was follow-up with MRIs every six months for the first-year post-surgery, then every year for about the next 10 years.
In 2022, I experienced a number of challenges. Despite those challenges, I always felt God was with me. My husband's health began to decline, which contributed to that year being very difficult. In March of that year, I found out I had another meningioma.
Unfortunately, my husband passed away December 12, 2022, which was completely devastating to me and my family. In the midst of that crisis, in 2023, I had my annual MRI, and the meningioma was double in size from 2022, which was cause for concern.
At that point, the doctor felt it was necessary to remove the meningioma again through a craniotomy since the size would not allow for a removal via CyberKnife surgery (a non-invasive surgery with the use of radiation).
In June 2023, the neurosurgeon scheduled my second craniotomy in 10 years. I was concerned but not fearful because I knew God would not abandon me. This surgery was six months after my husband’s passing. I was sad because my husband was not here to be with me to provide encouragement and support for this surgery.
This time, the neurosurgeon worked at a different hospital, and he recommended I see other specialists, too. One specialist would do testing to determine DNA aspects of why the meningioma returned in the ninth-year post-operation, and the other specialist would provide radiation in the area where the meningioma was to keep it from returning again.
I was so grateful that God ordered my steps and directed me to the experts that would provide me with the best medical care available.
The second craniotomy was a success! The doctor was able to get all of the tumor out, which made me a good candidate for radiation treatment from what the doctors told me. They consulted with me about the radiation treatment being used to keep tumors from returning.
I was able to see the radiation oncologist shortly after the craniotomy and scheduled three consecutive 30-minute to one hour radiation treatment sessions on a Zap-X Gyroscopic Radiosurgery machine. This is a state-of-the-art, high tech, expensive piece of equipment.
After the consultation with the oncology doctor, the medical team prepared me for the treatment by creating a mask used to secure me to the Zap-X machine table. My first treatment was somewhat difficult because I had an anxiety attack when I went into the machine. The medical staff pulled me out so I could calm down. I panicked because I was overwhelmed with thoughts about what I was enduring in addition to thoughts about my husband, who was always with me during the most difficult moments of my life and no longer here to physically hold my hand and assure me that everything is going to be alright.
The medical staff was phenomenal! They helped me calm down and took their time with me. Their patience and warmth comforted me and allowed me to begin the process again when I was ready. God's timing is always perfect. He placed me with the right people at the right time. After I calmed down, I felt the spirit of my husband sit with me to help me get through the treatment and the two additional treatment sessions.
When the third day of treatment ended, I received a certificate of completion from the medical team, and they said they were proud of me. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to assist me with getting through this process. To God be the glory. I’m so thankful He watches over me.