NAPLES, Fla. — May is Brain Tumor Awareness Month. A Naples mom, wife and flight attendant shared her story about discovering her brain tumor and the signs she experienced. A neurosurgeon from NCH Healthcare System explained the procedure to remove it.
Brain tumors can happen to anyone, and start when one single cell in the brain mutates, multiples quicker than the healthy cells and forms a growth.
In November of 2021, Kelley Moore — a busy flight attendant, mom, and wife — got a diagnosis that stopped her in her tracks.
"I was just sitting with my mouth open. I just, I was in shock," she said.
Moore had a bad sinus infection, and went to an Ear, Nose and Throat Doctor.
"I have hearing loss in my left ear, which he thought might have been connected to my sinus infection. And he said if you don't oppose, why don't you have a CAT Scan and an MRI," Moore said.
Thirty minutes after her appointment, she got a call.
"He just said to me, 'Are you OK? Are you sitting?' And he said, 'We found a large mass in your brain.' My stomach dropped," Moore said.
Two hours later, she was in Dr. Edison Valle's office.
"This tumor was located in the frontal area — the area that controls basically how you interact, your mood,' Dr. Valle, a Neurosurgeon with NCH Healthcare System said. "More impressive was the size of tumor that she had, compromising both frontal lobes."
The tumor was about four times the size of Moore's eyeballs. Dr. Valle said her tumor was a meningioma: it was curable. And he told her she would make a 100 percent recovery.
"The appointment was almost over and Dr. Valle just looked at me and said, 'I want you to stand up and walk out of this room and consider yourself lucky,'" Moore recalled. "He told me to go home and enjoy Christmas. He said, 'You've been walking around with this for six years.' I said, 'I have to work the next day. I have to work tomorrow.' He goes 'Go to work!'"
In January of 2022, Moore went back to NCH for brain surgery.
"Her tumor was completed resected," Dr. Valle said.
He said using an MRI with navigation protocols, they can create a 3D GPS of the brain and tumor.
"We're basically doing personalized brain surgery these days," Dr. Valle said. "We use that technology to map out the brain, and to merge that with instruments that we're using at the time of the surgery, and the microscopes that we use at the time of surgery."
He said this allows the procedure to be minimally invasive and recover patients like kelley faster.
"Within five days, I went home and I was walking and talking," Moore said.
Dr. Valle said the technology also helps them answer questions about:
- How long a patient will be in the hospital
- How long it will take a patient to recover
- When a patient can return to work and regular activity
Dr. Valle estimates Moore lived with her tumor for six years. Looking back now, Moore said she didn't realize the signs that something was wrong, and how much her tumor was affecting her mood.
"I just was really pushing myself through life. I was always exhausted. I just thought it was my age. I'm busy," she said.
Now, Moore said she can't believe how much her health and mood have turned around.
"I have a new lease on life. It's kind of a cliche, but it really is... It's true," she said. "I just always have this big smile on my face now because I feel so good."
"There's nothing that's more gratifying than having a somebody come in and shake your hand and saying 'Thank you, you've changed my life. You gave me my life back.' It fulfills your heart and keeps you going," Dr. Valle said.
While Moore as dealing with tiredness and changes with her mood, Dr. Valle said there are other signs of a brain tumor.
"Sometimes the brain gets irritated and people have seizures. Headaches because you're putting a lot of pressure within a fixed cavity. Speech problems. Visual problems. Sometimes weakness or problems with their balance can be related to brain tumors," Dr. Valle said.
Another symptom of a brain tumor is hearing loss.
Dr. Valle also said there are different types of brain tumors. Moore's was a Meningioma: it was curable with an operation.
"Then we just have to follow it to make sure they don't have a recurrence," Dr. Valle said.
Other tumors are intermediate grade and can be removed, but the patient will need chemotherapy or radiation after. But some tumors aren't curable.
"Brain cancer — what we call Glioblastoma. But we have made advances on those in a way that we can prolong survival and a good quality of life for a long time. Things that we could not do in the past," he said.