A woman who suffered facial paralysis and partial deafness due to a brain tumour the ‘size of a racquetball’ was initially told her symptoms were due to pregnancy.
Jessica Holroyd, from Michigan in the US, first experienced dizziness, headaches and unsteadiness after the birth of her first child Josiah, now 19, when she was 22.
The barista, 40, said she initially assumed her symptoms were due to childbirth, lack of sleep and being a first time mother, so she ignored them.
But her ailments worsened when she was expecting her second son Ethan, now 17, in 2002, and she found herself in so much pain she ‘couldn’t get out of bed’ for most of her pregnancy.
Jessica Holroyd, 40, from Michigan in the US, first experienced dizziness, headaches and unsteadiness after the birth of her first child Josiah (Pictured, Jessica with second son Ethan)
Her ailments worsened when she was expecting her second son Ethan, now 17, in 2002, and she found herself in so much pain she ‘couldn’t get out of bed’ for most of her pregnancy
Jessica was rushed to hospital only to be told doctors couldn’t find anything wrong and her symptoms were attributed to her pregnancy.
She then gave birth to her son six weeks early and, instead of her health improving, her condition became worse.
‘I first started to notice symptoms after the birth of my first child when I was only twenty-two; I was having dizzy spells, headaches and once in a while the room would spin when I made a quick or sudden movement,’ she explained.
‘I just attributed my symptoms to childbirth, lack of sleep and crazy first-time mum life. I didn’t think much of it at the time.
‘Things started to get worse when I got pregnant with my second child; I had severe headaches, dizziness and nausea and I couldn’t get out of bed most of my pregnancy.’
Doctors initially thought Jessica’s condition may be due to a spinal fluid leak, and she underwent a blood patch in an attempt to stop the leak.
‘I had c-sections with both of my children and because of the ongoing headaches they thought maybe I had a spinal fluid leak,’ the mother-of-four explained.
‘After one of the most painful procedures called a blood patch, where they take blood from your arm and put it in your spinal cord to stop the leak, is when my symptoms worsened.’
Jessica later had a CT scan which showed that her symptoms were caused by a condition called acoustic neuroma, a benign tumour growing in her brain (Pictured, Jessica with Ethan and Josiah)
The cyst had been growing on her brain stem for years, putting pressure on her nerves and causing facial paralysis and partial deafness (Pictured, Jessica with Josiah before her facial paralysis)
Two weeks later, Jessica had a CT scan which showed that her symptoms were caused by a condition called acoustic neuroma, a benign tumour growing in her brain.
The cyst roughly measured 2.25 inches – the same size as a racquetball – and her doctor warned that if they had left it to grow, it would have been inoperable.
It had been growing on her brain stem for years, putting pressure on her nerves and causing facial paralysis and partial deafness.
‘The neurologist came to look at me and then went to review the results of my scan. He came back into the room and told me and my mother to sit down,’ Jessica said.
‘He then told me there was something wrong with my brain; I had major swelling and fluid build-up inside my brain which I was hearing slosh around with every heartbeat.
‘He said it was most likely a tumour, but they didn’t know; additional MRI testing would tell. Those were the most frightening earth-shattering words I’d ever heard.
‘A few thoughts were circling my mind, “I just had a baby two weeks ago. I have an eighteen-month-old child at home and a husband of four years who is my life. Do I have cancer? Am I going to die? What is wrong with my brain?”
The tumour ran through Jessica’s acoustic nerve, her facial nerve and was pressing against her optic nerve which caused further vision problems (Pictured, Jessica and her husband with children Eliana, Ethan, Josiah and Samuel)
‘After the MRI they told me I had a very large almost in-operable tumour the size of a racquetball on my brain stem pushing on all my nerves.’
The tumour ran through Jessica’s acoustic nerve, her facial nerve, and was pressing against her optic nerve which caused further vision problems.
She spent two weeks in an Intensive Care Unit while medics waited for the swelling and fluid inside her brain to go down enough to operate.
WHAT IS AN ACOUSTIC NEUROMA?
An acoustic neuroma is a non-cancerous tumour which grows on the eighth cranial nerve, which connects the inner ear with the brain.
This growth develops slowly over a number of years, and they do not typically invade the brain.
Common symptoms include:
- Balance problems
- Dizziness and unsteadiness
- Facial weakness
- Difficulty swallowing and hoarseness
‘When it was time, I was brought back for an eight-hour surgery where they removed my right acoustic nerve causing deafness in my right ear,’ she explained. ‘They also left 2mm of the tumour on my facial nerve to see if muscle movement would return but it still caused major facial paralysis.’
The mother-of-four’s facial muscle movement has since come back by 40 to 50 per cent, but Jessica said it took ten years for her to feel comfortable taking ‘pictures or even videos of myself’.
She added: ‘I didn’t look like other people. I was broken. I didn’t work right, why would anybody want to hear from me?
‘A few years later I joined a little makeup team; the support I got was unimaginable. The stories they told about their flaws, their lives and their brokenness were just like mine.
‘I had never felt like a part of something like it before; they encouraged me to tell my story and even take pictures and videos of myself. It was life changing for me.
‘Now I feel blessed to be here with my family; thankful for the hard times even though I didn’t know it back then.
‘It has moulded and shaped me into who I am today. Today I am able to tell my story and bear my flaws in order to help others see their own beauty.’