Simeon Moses, originally from Nigeria, is a father, a husband, and lawyer. His infectious energy was dimmed by his insomnia as he was kept awake by excruciating headaches. Simeon was unable to sleep more than three hours at a time, and a prescription of 800 mg of ibuprofen had little effect. His neurologist referred him to a headache specialist, who found a brain tumor when reviewing his brain MRI.
Simeon said it was the worst news he could hear. Having previously battled prostate cancer, he sought multiple opinions as he didn't want to rush into a decision about having surgery after his treatment.
"I decided I was going to schedule a consultation, so I called Massachusetts General Hospital and told them my story, and that I needed to see a surgeon," he says. "And they recommended Dr. Nahed for me."
Brian V. Nahed, MD, MSc, neurosurgeon and associate director of the Neurosurgery Residency Program at Mass General ultimately performed his craniotomy in August 2017, and now more than three years post-surgery, Simeon has finally found relief.
"A big reason people do so well at Mass General is that we are a large referral center for patients with brain tumors. Our multidisciplinary team of experts are all dedicated to brain tumors and delivering state of the art care," says Dr. Nahed. "That is combined with our intraoperative technology and operative technique, and so we're able to achieve the best outcomes for our patients.”
When his headache specialist showed Simeon the tumor on the MRI and insisted it wasn't the source of his headaches, Simeon was livid. A second specialist agreed with the first, so Simeon went back to his neurologist. She said the brain tumor was small and if it didn't grow after six months, it wouldn't be anything to worry about.
A tumor is an abnormal mass of tissue that grows and multiplies uncontrollably. While there are more than 150 different types of brain tumors, the two main groups are primary and metastatic. Primary tumors originate from the brain tissue or the brain's immediate surroundings and can be either benign (not harmful) or malignant (cancerous). Metastatic tumors originate elsewhere in the body and spread to the brain, typically through the bloodstream, and are malignant.
“Meningiomas are thought to be benign tumors. If they are not causing symptoms or growing, the initial management is to watch them with MRIs” says Dr. Nahed. “If they grow, if they change on imaging or if they cause symptoms, then our recommendation is to remove them with surgery.”
Simeon traveled back to his native Nigeria for eight months, but when he came back, he learned that the tumor had increased in size. He spoke to a surgeon about his options and decided to call Mass General for a second opinion.
Upon reviewing Simeon’s records, Dr. Nahed called to have him in for a consultation and another MRI. Ultimately Simeon decided to move forward with a craniotomy. During this procedure the neurosurgeon works to remove part or all of the tumor from the brain.
"He radiated such confidence in terms of his expertise and the knowledge of what he was going to do," Simeon says of Dr. Nahed. "This was the first time I've seen a doctor who has so much empathy—not the first time, let me be fair to others I've seen—but his own was extraordinary."
At the time of his initial meningioma diagnosis, Simeon's wife and four daughters took the news of his brain tumor very hard since no one knew what the outcome would be.
"When I told them prior to seeing Dr. Nahed, it was like I had received a death sentence," he says. "They were crying, really, really crying." But Simeon didn't hide anything from them. He wanted them to know exactly what was going on, so they could be specific with their prayers for his recovery.
Dr. Nahed assured Simeon he would do his best. He explained the entire procedure to Simeon, who said he had no fear the day of the surgery.
Dr. Nahed notes that “after surgery, most people are monitored closely in the hospital for a few days, and then are discharged home. Most patients handle the procedure with minimal pain, and are up and walking around the day after surgery then discharged the following day”.
After the surgery, Simeon spent the night in the intensive care unit, but thought the procedure was successful because he no longer felt any pain. Equally important, however, was the relationship he had developed with Dr. Nahed.
"You would think that he had known me for so long," Simeon says. "We became so attached like we were friends. This is a great guy."
Since his surgery, Simeon has had several follow-up MRIs and the tumor has not reappeared. Other than minor headaches the first couple of weeks after the surgery, Simeon hasn't had one since.
Simeon is so happy with his experience at Mass General that he would shout it from the mountaintops any day. When a friend from Nigeria said she was going to a hospital in California, he suggested Mass General instead.
"If they can't get to the bottom of it," he says, "nowhere in the world can get to the bottom of it."
Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center
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