Being told that you have a brain tumor can make time stand still. And defeating the tumor can lead to one of life’s greatest lessons: staying positive in the face of adversity.
Mia Lyons, a Kansas City resident whose positive attitude is a way of life, was diagnosed in 2007 with a benign brain tumor called a meningioma. The second most primary tumor of the central nervous system, meningiomas are slow-growing, occur more frequently in women than men and are usually benign.
Mia recalls the day she was diagnosed. That moment stood still for her and always will in her memory; the determined woman decided to put her signature positivity in motion.
“I could have worried myself sick about the outcome of my diagnosis, but I made the decision to move forward,” says Mia. “That’s the way I’ve always approached things in my life.”
Before being diagnosed, Mia had been experiencing distortion in her peripheral vision and made an appointment to see an optometrist. Mia thought the difficulty with her vision was perhaps as a result of scar tissue from a radial keratotomy (RK) procedure she had several years prior to correct nearsightedness. The optometrist suggested Mia visit an ophthalmologist, who after reviewing her charts, sent her to a neuro-ophthalmologist for further tests.
“I underwent an MRI, which showed I had a brain tumor,” says Mia. “The doctor said he was 99 percent sure it was benign but wanted to rule out the possibility of a malignancy so he sent me to a neurosurgeon.
After seeing a neurosurgeon who recommended performing a craniotomy, a surgical procedure in which a bone flap is removed from the skull to access the brain, Mia decided to seek a second opinion.
“I wasn’t comfortable with the doctor’s willingness to do the surgery without considering other options,” says Mia. “In addition, he wasn’t reassuring and I left his office frightened and confused.”
Upon a colleague’s recommendation, Mia then saw Jonathon Chilton, MD, a neurosurgeon with Midwest Neurosurgery Associates, P.A.. During his initial consultation, Mia said Dr. Chilton was confident he could remove the tumor with a craniotomy.
“He told me that, like all surgeries, there was no guarantee, but he was very positive and made me feel comfortable,” says Mia. “After all, this was my brain. I wanted the doctor who gave me the most confidence and helped me feel less scared about any surgery.”
Dr. Chilton says one of the most important facets of his job is to educate the patient about their situation so they know what to expect.
“I want patients to feel comfortable about not only me, but also about the treatment process,” he says.
Dr. Chilton explains that the craniotomy helped remove the pressure from Mia’s optic nerve. “The craniotomy is performed with an operating microscope, tools and a technique that gently teases the tumor away from the brain,” explains Dr. Chilton. “Mia’s tumor was about the size of a large grape and had probably been growing for about 10 years.”
Mia underwent surgery on a Tuesday at Research Medical Center and was released from the hospital on Thursday. She returned to work two weeks later and within a month was living her normal life again.
“Mia made an excellent recovery, returning to her personal and professional activities within a month,” says Dr. Chilton.
Mia says her goal the day she received her diagnosis was to live to see her 45th birthday.
“Dr. Chilton and his staff are my heroes,” says the 46-year-old woman. “He made me feel so at ease about the surgery, and he and his staff have all been patient with my questions and concerns.”
Mia’s husband, Kirk, agrees with his wife’s opinion that Dr. Chilton and his team were compassionate and caring.
“Dr. Chilton sat down with me following surgery and explained the outcome,” says Kirk. “I appreciate that personal communication and how he’s treated Mia since the surgery.”
Mia hasn’t experienced residual effects from the craniotomy and subsequent MRIs show that the tumor hasn’t come back.
“Dr. Chilton will monitor the tumor site every two years,” says Mia. “So far, my bill of health is clean. He is positive and helps me maintain a positive outlook, too.”
And maintaining a positive attitude, says Mia, is a primary lesson in her personal book of life.