Janis Clouthier is an outgoing, active person who loves celebrating holidays with her family and spending time outside. Her family knew something was wrong when she would suddenly start falling asleep or run out of energy for no apparent reason. Her husband and her two adult sons worried that she wasn't acting like herself. She was also was starting to notice trouble with her vision, which could cause problems for her job working for the City of Concord in New Hampshire.
"It came to a point when I was beyond exhausted and lost all enthusiasm for anything," she says.
Her primary care physician ran multiple tests, like checking her blood pressure and blood sugar levels, but could not find any reason for the fatigue. After her family insisted, her doctor also ran an electrocardiogram (EKG) and a brain scan to search for an explanation for her sudden change in personality and her constant exhaustion.
After years of doubt and confusion, everything quickly changed. Within an hour of her brain MRI, her doctor called to let her know they had discovered that she had a 5-centimeter brain tumor, or meningioma. While the diagnosis was serious and complicated, she was relieved to finally have a diagnosis.
"I was beyond happy," she says. "At least they found something. They found out what was wrong with me."
Janis met with a local neurosurgeon and immediately felt it was not the right fit. Her oldest son offered to take control of the search for the best brain surgeon for her care. His search led to Brian Nahed, MD, MSc, a neurosurgeon at the Stephen E. and Catherine Pappas Center for Neuro-Oncology in the Department of Neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Coming to Mass General
Janis’s son Jamison called Dr. Nahed's office late on a Friday afternoon. His assistant had already left for the weekend so he left a message with someone in the office, who passed along the information. While his assistant was on her way to a weekend destination with her family, she saw the message and understood the urgency with Janis's story, so she quickly arranged for Janis to meet with Dr. Nahed at 8 am the following Monday.
"We were beyond impressed," says Janis. "And when we met Dr. Nahed, he was the most humble, down-to-earth, honest, extremely smart, and relaxed surgeon. It immediately put me and my family at ease. We all had one hundred percent confidence in Dr. Nahed. There was no question at all about having him perform my surgery."
Janis and her family asked to schedule the surgery as soon as possible, and just eight days after her first meeting with Dr. Nahed, she was heading to the operating room.
"Every single person I met at Mass General—the receptionist, the technicians, the nurses, even the gentleman that came in to clean the room—made me feel like I was family," Janis says. "They were very professional. They knew what they were doing but they were also very warm and comforting."
Surgery & Recovery
Due to the size and location of the tumor, Dr. Nahed first removed the front of Janis's skull to access the tumor. When she came out of surgery, she first recovered in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). She had six stitches and 79 staples around her head, but says she did not feel pain—not even a headache. Most importantly, the surgery was a success.
Janis says, "I was awake in ICU that night, talking to my family, drinking and eating. I was up walking the next day and the next day."
She was discharged later that week and went home a house full of family and friends.
"I recuperated very quickly and then I came back to the old Janis again," she says. "I finally had energy and was not falling asleep. I was enthusiastic. I had no pain whatsoever."
Whenever she is at Mass General, she delivers a batch of brownies to Dr. Nahed's office to show her appreciation.
"She's such an amazing person that whenever she’s at Mass General, she stops by the family waiting room to talk to people undergoing a craniotomy to share her courageous story and that you can undergo neurosurgery and be fine… in fact be better" says Dr. Nahed.
Returning to Normalcy
Today, Janis is back to her old self—working, spending time with her family and enjoying spending time with her husband on their new boat.
"I've always been very appreciative and very aware of the blessings I have in my life," she says "Now I have even more appreciation for the little things. I went back to being me again."
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