Disclaimer: The patient has asked to share her story anonymously. For the purpose of this story, we will be referring to the patient as Jane.
Jane, now retired, was born and raised in Bermuda and is currently living on the island. In 2016, Jane noticed she was leaning towards the left when driving her car which she attributed to clumsiness, however, after a series of incidents she pursued medical attention which identified a brain tumor that was the cause of her symptoms. Jane immediately reached out to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, as it was highly recommended by a relative. After one call to the International Patient Center, Jane was ready to start her brain tumor treatment at Mass General.
Noticing Something Was Wrong
In early 2016, Jane noticed that she kept leaning towards the left side when driving—a change in her driving that was made apparent as she began colliding with objects on the left side. At first, she attributed this to carelessness and did not think too much of it.
After a few accidents, she sought medical care in Bermuda, prompting an MRI of the brain, which identified a brain tumor, most likely a meningioma.
“A meningioma is a brain tumor that originates from the lining of the brain and is very common and very often benign,” said Brian Nahed, MD, MSc, a neurosurgical oncologist specializing in brain tumors and the associate director of the Mass General Neurosurgery Residency Program.
“As you can imagine, I was in a state of shock and confusion with my recent diagnosis. But I was sure of one thing, I wanted to receive my care from Mass General,” said Jane.
Journey to Mass General
After receiving the diagnosis in Bermuda, Jane considered many hospitals in the United States. However, given that Mass General was so highly regarded by a relative who had also undergone treatment at Mass General, she contacted the hospital’s International Office directly.
Jane called the International Patient Center (IPC) at Mass General, and connected with Anel Mejia, a client liaison who expedited her evaluation within the neurosurgery’s department. “If I had not had the privilege of speaking with Anel in the International Office, I would not have had this extremely positive experience at Mass General,” said Jane. “Anel loves what she does, and her first priority is to help patients.” As Jane was an international patient, the team at the IPC also organized transportation and accommodation for Jane during her four-month stay.
The following day, after the initial MRI in Bermuda, Jane arrived at Mass General and visited with Dr. Brian Nahed in his office, who had waited to see Jane after the arrival of her flight from Bermuda at approximately 4:20 pm. Dr. Nahed's team expedited her evaluation and obtained a high-resolution MRI to better characterize Jane’s brain tumor in preparation for her surgery. After discussing the findings with Dr. Nahed, Jane and her care team all agreed to proceed with the brain surgery. Her neurosurgeon, Dr. Nahed, and her radiation oncologist, Helen Shih, MD, medical director of the Proton Therapy Center at the Mass General Cancer Center, developed a multidisciplinary plan to treat her brain tumor. She couldn’t believe how smoothly and quickly everything went and credits it all to the coordination by Anel with all who were involved in her treatment and recovery at Mass General.
Surgery and Recovery
In July, Jane underwent a successful brain surgery in which the entire tumor was removed. According to Dr. Nahed, “The surgery went extremely well, and we were able to remove the entire tumor. Patients are often shocked by how little pain or issues are associated with brain surgery. Our primary goal is to remove as much of the tumor as safely as possible, maximizing the patient’s safety and mobility after surgery. The entire Mass General neurosurgery team is focused on caring for the patient during one of the scariest moments of their lives—being told they have a brain tumor.”
“A lot of it was a blur. I just remember entering the operating room and waking up in the middle of the night in the Intensive Care Unit,” said Jane. The nurses in the ICU took care of Jane’s medical needs overnight, before Dr. Nahed's visit in the morning.
The morning after the surgery, Jane was already feeling better and seeing improvement. She remembers joking around with Dr. Nahed when he came for a post-operatory visit. “I will always remember the kindness and compassion from Dr. Nahed and Dr. Shih. Not only are they highly skilled professionals, but they have this innate manner of making you feel as if you are their one and only patient. That is truly a gift,” said Jane.
“Jane showed great improvement just 24 hours after her surgery,” said Dr. Nahed. In most cases, the risks associated with brain tumor surgery are low and many patients are generally discharged within two to three days after the surgery. Most patients are pretty active postoperatively and resume their normal activities within a few days, and often return to work around four to six weeks after surgery.
After surgery, Drs. Nahed and Shih reviewed Jane’s pathology and new MRI with their colleagues at the Mass General Brain Tumor Center tumor board, consisting of the neurooncology, neuropathology, neuroradiology, neurosurgery and radiation oncology departments.
“Radiation therapy was part of Jane’s treatment due to her atypical meningioma,” said Dr. Shih. Radiation complements surgery to treat tumors which may have atypical or aggressive features to reduce the chance of recurrence. It is very well tolerated and has very minimal side effects. “Some possible side effects include hair loss, fatigue, reduced vision and hearing, and others, which can be preventable if careful.”
Jane stayed in Boston for approximately three months for her post-surgery treatment, which included radiation sessions, physical therapy and check-ups with her physicians.
Returning to Bermuda
“The first thing I did once I returned to Bermuda was to drive my car and attempt reversing into a parking bay which had always been my forte up until six months prior to discovering I had a brain tumor. It was perfect,” said Jane. She was thrilled to be back home, back to normal and to resume her daily activities. “I feel completely indebted to Mass General, and I am truly grateful for the doctors, nurses and the IPC staff who were part of my journey.”
“We become part of our patients’ lives, and we are in contact with them for the rest of their lives. We celebrate joys of their recovery together and prepare for any challenges ahead,” said Dr. Shih.
Jane continues to visit Mass General for her check-ups every six months with Drs. Nahed and Shih.
If I had to rate my experience with Mass General, I’d rate it 10/10. It was the best medical care I’ve ever received.
Mass General Department of Neurosurgery
The Department of Neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital provides a complete range of surgical services for the diagnosis and treatment of neurologic disorders of the brain and spine. The Department of Neurosurgery performs more than 4,300 procedures each year, safely removing tumors considered inoperable by other hospitals. The multidisciplinary team includes 24 faculty neurosurgeons and 20 additional residents-in-training. Dr. Brian Nahed specializes in brain tumors and provides evaluations and second opinions within 24 hours either in person or virtually, and he can be reached through the International Patient Center or directly at +1-617-724-5805. For more information, please visit: https://www.massgeneral.org/neurosurgery
Mass General Department of Radiation Oncology
The Department of Radiation Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital combines clinical expertise, compassionate care and advanced radiation therapies to deliver the safest, most effective treatments for cancer and benign tumors. Their state-of-the-art radiation technologies, found in few other U.S. hospitals, provide precise targeting of tumors while minimizing the potential for injury to surrounding tissue. Each year, they successfully treat thousands of patients with noninvasive and minimally invasive internal and external radiation therapies, including proton beam therapy, and others. For more information, please visit: https://www.massgeneral.org/cancer-center/radiation-oncology
Center for Neuro-Oncology at Mass General
The Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital offers the most advanced care for patients with brain tumors and nervous system tumors. They perform the highest volume of acoustic neuroma procedures in New England, and are leaders in glioblastomas, gliomas, meningioma, pituitary adenoma and other common and complex surgical procedures. Their surgeons have extensive experience treating brain tumors while minimizing damage to surrounding structures. For more information, please visit: https://www.massgeneral.org/neurosurgery/treatments-and-services/brain-tumor-center
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