Jenn Otto resizeimage 42
It all began when I was in college.  I got dizzy when I tipped my head back or laid down.  I went to my regular doctor who sent me to an Ears, Nose and Throat doctor.  I was diagnosed with positional vertigo.  Four years later, the dizziness continued.  A friend suggested going to a neurologist.  It was summertime, and I was working as a special education teacher at the time. I delaying my appointment to hike the last 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail.  When I finally went to the neurologist in October of 1998, several tests were ordered including an MRI.  Clear as day, there was a brain tumor in my 4th ventricle between my brain stem and cerebellum.  The doctors were quite certain it was not cancer because I had symptoms for SO long.

In surgery, the doctors ended up being more aggressive in removing the tumor as it presented itself differently once they were inside. It seemed to be a different tumor than the one they suspected.  It was a pilocytic astrocytoma grade 1.  Unfortunately, I experienced most of the complications that doctors initially said I wouldn’t experience. I had physical issues after surgery.  Shortly after hiking 100 miles, by myself, I was suddenly unable to walk.  My speech was slurred, my right side was impacted and I had severe double vision.  I also developed meningitis and had a second surgery to place a VP shunt in brain.  I was in the hospital for nearly a month when they originally said 7-9 days.

After 3 months of inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation, I went from a wheel chair to a walker and then a cane. When I left rehab, I was walking on my own!  I was able to return to work and independent living.  My double vision was mostly resolved and I was able to return to driving 5 months after surgery. 

Fast forward to now and all is pretty normal.  I now write using my left hand instead of my right. On my right side I was never able to recover the skills I used to have even after a year of attempts. I am now able to walk fine and I run almost every day.  I finished my first half marathon in March 2014!  I do have balance issues, but nothing anyone notices. I went to graduate school a few years after surgery and received my Ed.S. in School Psychology.   I am married now and a stay at home mom to our 4 beautiful children. My children are largely unaware of what Mommy went through.  I still get MRIs every 18 months and have now developed adult strabismus (double vision) as time has passed. From my perspective, though, these are minor issues considering what could have been.