Some of you may be aware that I’ll be taking a hiatus from both broadcast and print journalism for a few months. Let me explain why in this last column before my hiatus.

In June 2019, I noticed my allergies seemed to be getting worse. For a couple years prior, my doctor had been giving me nasal inhalers, allergy pills and allergy drops for my eyes. But each morning I’d awake with my left eye swollen and then it began to tear, almost constantly. Mascara was a mess, believe me.

My eye doctor diagnosed “dry eye” and had me start using Bio-Tears to keep my eye lubricated.

My allergist thought I was allergic to my cat, Mojo, who sleeps on the bed. She suggested getting rid of him, but that wasn’t an option. Instead I would “protect” my side of the bed with another blanket he could sleep on during the day and remove it at night for me. It didn’t work.

I get monthly allergy shots so during my next visit in June, I asked my allergist if she had anything stronger because it seemed my left eye was getting worse. She stopped dead in her tracks and said, “What do you mean, it’s just one eye? That’s not allergies.”

She suggested I see an ocular plastic surgeon. At that point I started thinking maybe I’d get an insurance covered eyelift. When I saw the surgeon, he did some measurements and then told me he believed I had ocular Graves’ Disease, a thyroid disorder that has no treatment and no cure. He told me it would likely make me blind in my left eye. I was in shock. Then he added that I needed to get a computerized tomography (CT) scan to rule anything else out, like a brain tumor.

I had to wait a week before the CT, but a couple of days prior, a memory flooded back into my head. Just before my father passed, I asked his doctors for a full neurological evaluation. They discovered a brain tumor deep in his left hemisphere. He was too fragile for a biopsy and we have no idea if the tumor had anything to do with his health problems, but he was gone three weeks later.

At that point, I knew I had a brain tumor.

The next day, while I was putting together my story for the news, the doctor called me to say I had a mass behind my left eye that was essentially pushing my eye out of my head.

My life as I knew it stopped and a new journey had begun.

I informed my management team – who gave me incredible support – and off I went to find a brain surgeon.

I have what’s known as a sphenoid wing orbital meningioma. About 32,000 people are diagnosed with meningiomas each year, but my surgeon told me that my specific type of tumor is rather rare. He had perhaps four cases a year.

The tumor was located three millimeters from crushing my carotid artery, optic nerve and in my eye socket. When they did surgery on Oct. 17, 2019, they also found that a significant portion of the tumor infiltrated my skull and literally had to be “drilled” out. My surgeon told me that I wore out two six-millimeter drill bits, in the effort to remove what they could.

It left behind a 10-inch scar held together with 51 staples. I have three titanium plates in my head to protect the hole in my skull from the bone they had to drill away. My surgery is called a craniotomy.

I knew prior to surgery they would not be able to get all of the tumor. They would have to leave behind the portion on my optic nerve and carotid artery, as well as the tumor in my eye socket and they found residual tumor on the back of my left eye as well.

Trying to remove it would put me at significant risk of losing my vision or my life.

So every six months I went in for MRIs to see if the residual tumor had grown – I knew it was a very real possibility. What I didn’t know is how fast it could happen. Within a year and a half, my eye began to swell again and the chronic tearing returned.

I kept telling my doctor that I thought something was wrong, but my MRIs kept coming back with no significant change.

In August of this year, I reached out again. The symptoms I had were similar to the ocular Graves’ Disease they thought I had in the first place. Was it possible I had both Graves’ and a brain tumor?

They ordered a CT scan.

The day after the scan my results popped up on MyChart and I read them. It showed significant tumor progression into my cavernous sinus.

I had another MRI. It showed no major change.

It meant that the residual tumor in my eye socket infiltrated the bone and was spreading. It meant I would have to undergo surgery again. I thought I was going to have to have another craniotomy to drill away the tumor once again in the bone.

Then I learned that Cleveland Clinic now has a Facial Reconstruction Ear, Nose and Throat surgeon that knows how to do a more minimally invasive procedure called TONES. They did their first case in May. I would be the second at Cleveland Clinic.

Transorbital Neuroendoscopic Surgery, or TONES, is cutting along the crease in the eyelid to open a space and get access to the eye socket or brain to remove the tumor.

We don’t know exactly what we’re dealing with until they get inside to look. Surgery will take place in mid-December.

What may happen is that they’ll have to drill away significant tumor from my eye socket and forehead. Then they will take bone from my rib and rebuild my face.

I plan on doing a story on my own procedure, hoping this may help others and alert them that there is another option available.

Recovery is planned for three months. I will likely lose my vision for a few weeks in my left eye, but it should return. Then come spring, we’ll have to make a decision of whether or not I’ll need radiation therapy.

I learned during the first battle that I had to figure out what things I had control over and what things I didn’t. Then I had to let God handle the latter.

I also learned that living in the present is a very safe and sane place to be. I just focus on the next five minutes to get through my days.

I’m most thankful for the hundreds of people I met over the years who’ve shared their stories with me. Many were dealt issues that were far worse than mine and they handled them with grace and dignity. If they could get out of bed each day and continue living, I had no excuse. Their strength keeps me going.

Finally, I learned that it’s OK to go down the “rabbit hole” occasionally and not beat myself up over my feelings. I have a lot on my plate and it can get rather overwhelming. But the rabbit hole is dark, dank and has no cable or Wi-Fi so it’s a pretty boring place to be. I force myself not to stay too long.

I’m deeply grateful for all the well wishes and I hope my story can give strength to those who might need a little push. I wish you all blessings this holiday season and I plan to be back with you in 2022.

Be well,

Monica

Publisher’s note: Monica Robins will be going on hiatus as she prepares for and recovers from her surgery. Read about her journey at cjn.org/monicarobins. We’ll keep you updated on her recovery.


Monica Robins is the Senior Health Correspondent at 3News. The information provided in this column is for educational and informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this column or on our website.

How do you feel about this article?

Choose from the options below.

0
0
3
11
0