A South Dakota woman said she refused to let a brain tumor and surgery prevent her from walking down the aisle.
For about a year, Christina Anderson, 24, from Watertown, was experiencing severe dizzy spells after her December 2017 engagement to Brandon Jensen.
One day in May, while she was in the midst of planning her wedding, the room began spinning. Anderson started vomiting and couldn’t walk straight, TODAY reported.
She went to a local hospital and underwent a CT scan. Doctors diagnosed her with a benign tumor about the size of a golf ball that was pressing on the part of her brain that affected balance.
Anderson was determined, however, to both undergo surgery and make sure she walked down the aisle herself on her wedding day.
After just a few months of therapy and resolute refusal of the walker, Anderson made her way – unassisted – to the alter to marry Brandon Jensen on August 10.
Christina Anderson, 24, from Watertown, South Dakota, was experiencing dizzy spells for about a year. Pictured: Anderson, left, and Brandon Jensen on their wedding day
After one day in May when Anderson experience a particularly bad spell, she rushed herself to a local hospital. She was diagnosed with a hemangioblastoma, a benign tumor that affects balance and coordination. Pictured: Anderson before surgery, left, and after surgery, right
‘It took the doctors a really, really long time to come in so I knew something was up,’ Anderson told TODAY.
‘The doctor came up and sat by my side and said, “I found a brain tumor.” At that point, I knew what it meant but I was kind of in denial because I didn’t really understand the severity of it.’
Hemangioblastomas are benign tumors that can occur in the brain, spinal cord or behind the eye.
They account for about two percent of all brain tumors, according to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
Symptoms include headache, lack of coordination, loss of balance, nausea and vomiting.
Scientists don’t know what causes hemangioblastomas, but believe it may be triggered by a mix of genetic and environmental factors.
Typically, surgery is the standard course of treatment. If a tumor can’t be completely surgically removed, patients also undergo radiation treatment.
If left untreated, the mass can permanently damage nerves in the brain, leading to a permanent loss of balance.
The tumor, located behind Anderson’s right ear, measured two inches in diameter and was compressing her brain stem, which controls breathing, swallowing, heart rate and blood pressure.
She told TODAY that her father drove her to the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, Minnesota, where doctors told her she needed surgery immediately.
Anderson underwent an eight-hour surgery five days after she was diagnosed. She quickly began working on regaining her balance so she didn’t have to walk down the aisle with a walker. Pictured: Anderson’s surgery scar, left, and a scan of her tumor, right
On August 10, wearing bedazzled Crocs, she walked down the aisle herself and married Brandon Jensen. Pictured: Anderson, left, and Jensen on their wedding day
Anderson was determined, despite facing surgery, to keep the scheduled date of her upcoming wedding, which was three months away, because everything had already been paid for.
She asked Dr Manish Sharma, her neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System, if she would have to cut off any hair before surgery – and he told her that she did.
‘That was the part that I was stuck on the most because I was like: “I’m getting married in August. I can’t have my hair missing”,’ Anderson said.
On May 7, five days after she was diagnosed, Anderson underwent an eight-hour surgery.
Dr Sharma told TODAY that he was able to remove the entire tumor, plus nearby dead brain tissue, which could have caused more tumors in the future.
Anderson’s medical team began focusing on regaining her balance, and the 24-year-old was determined to not use the walker on her wedding day.
‘I was going to crawl down that aisle before I had to use the walker. It was not an option for me,’ Anderson told TODAY. ‘I used it in the hospital and they sent it home with me and I just kept hiding it.’
On August 10, she walked down the aisle in bedazzled Crocs to help with her balance, and a clever hairdo and a hairpiece to mask the surgery scar.