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Stories from patients, family, friends and Mayo Clinic staff

Neurology & Neurosurgery

September 10th, 2016

Persevering Through Brain Cancer, Travis McGinnis Remains Upbeat and Optimistic

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Travis McGinnis rings bell after cancer treatment. Travis McGinnis was just 30 years old when an insidious cancer was discovered in his brain. It had been growing there for some time, he says — his physicians estimated between five and 10 years. Had the stage-three oligoastrocytoma not been detected when it was, Travis would have likely lost his life. As it happened, thanks to care and treatment provided by neurologists and neurosurgeons at Mayo Clinic’s Rochester campus, the only solid thing the father of three lost to the cancer was a fist-sized piece of his brain.

While having cancer was something he never wanted, Travis says the experience gave him insights and gifts he would not have otherwise realized: deep appreciation for his family and friends, gratitude for the present, and faith in strangers who generously supported him.

“Sometimes I’ll sit and think about everything I’ve been through, and it moves me to tears,” Travis says. “I’m alive and better for it. I wish I never would’ve had to go through it, but at least it wasn’t for nothing.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: brain tumor, Glioma, Hope Lodge, Neurology & Neurosurgery, neurosurgery, oligoastrocytoma, radiation therapy


August 31st, 2016

After Treatment for Pituitary Tumor, Pastry Chef is Ready for Sweet Smell of Ordinary Life

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Jessie Brenholt is back to baking after tumor treatment.

Jessie Brenholt is a certified pastry chef who would like to open a bakery one day. “If the ingredients were free, I’d give out cakes to everyone,” she says.

For a while, the 23-year-old's dream seemed to be in jeopardy. After months of being sick with weight loss, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and vision problems, Jessie found that the source of her symptoms was a tumor on her pituitary gland — a small gland located at the base of the brain that makes a variety of hormones.

A neurosurgeon near her hometown of Hill City, Minnesota, found that the walnut-sized tumor was wrapped around Jessie’s optic nerve and located close to a carotid artery. Treatment to get rid of it could affect Jessie’s sense of smell and vision. Due to the complexity of the situation, the surgeon referred Jessie to Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus.

“A pastry chef needs to be able to smell and see,” says Jessie. “My doctors at Mayo Clinic understood my concerns and have been great about preserving my quality of life with surgery and proton beam therapy.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: clinical trials, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Pituitary tumor, Proton Beam Therapy


August 9th, 2016

Surgery to Get Rid of Seizures Gives Brad Lewis New Freedom

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After years of taking medication for persistent seizures, Brad Lewis had surgery at Mayo Clinic to eliminate them. Five years later, he remains seizure-free.
For 14 years, Brad Lewis never knew quite what to expect when he woke up in the morning. A rare genetic disorder, tuberous sclerosis, caused a variety of health problems. But the one that disrupted his life the most was epilepsy. At one point, Brad was having as many as 80 seizures a day.

“Seizures are so unpredictable. If Brad wasn’t having a seizure, he was worried about having a seizure,” says his mother, Bernadette Lewis. “It affected every minute of his life, whether he was at school, with friends or at home.”

Brad was also dealing with other complications from his medical condition. After trying many medications and going through multiple surgeries, Brad’s parents decided they needed another expert to weigh in on the situation. That brought the family to Nicholas Wetjen, M.D., a physician in the Department of Neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Dr Nicholas Wetjen, Epilepsy, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Tuberous Sclerosis, seizures


July 29th, 2016

Seamstress Moving and Sewing Again After Complex Spine Surgery for Scoliosis

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Years of progressing scoliosis left Kimberly Kimmons in severe pain and put her vocation as a seamstress at risk. But a series of surgeries at Mayo Clinic successfully treated her condition, allowing her to continue creating unique fashions.Growing up in Central Florida, Kimberly Kimmons was an active child. She loved swimming, biking and martial arts. But at age 12, Kim was diagnosed with scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine that most often occurs during a growth spurt before puberty. Unfortunately, Kim’s family didn’t have the resources to fully address her spinal issues, and the scoliosis continued to get worse.

Years later, when Kim and her husband, Kent, searched for specialists to help fix her back problems, they found neurosurgeons at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Jacksonville, Florida, who were confident they could help. But as they assessed her condition, Kim’s care plan became more complicated. In the end, she had three surgeries at Mayo Clinic to remedy back and neck issues. With time and recovery, Kim was able to reclaim her life.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Dr Gordon Deen, Dr Mark Pichelmann, Mayo Clinic Florida, Neurology & Neurosurgery, Scoliosis, Spinal Fusion


July 16th, 2016

Refusing to Give Up After Devastating Accident, A Farmer Finds Help and Healing at Mayo Clinic

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Gene Franke is back on his feet after farm accident. When Gene Franke left his farm in rural Hayfield, Minnesota, driving a semi-trailer truck loaded with hay and bound for Oklahoma, he never imagined the return leg of his journey would be as a passenger in an air ambulance jet. But in September 2011, that’s exactly what happened.

A serious accident left Gene paralyzed and in critical condition. Doctors in Oklahoma didn’t think he would survive. Longtime patients of Mayo Clinic, Gene and his wife, Barbara, were determined to get him back to Mayo's Rochester, Minnesota, campus for care.

“The doctors at Mayo Clinic knew what was going on, and they assured us they could do something for him,” Barbara says. “We knew he had to get up here. The care at Mayo Clinic is like nowhere else. We’re used to it, and that’s what we wanted.”  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Mayo MedAir, Rehabilitation, air ambulance, neurosurgery, spinal cord injury


June 26th, 2016

Former Airman, Stroke Survivor Tells of Life Punctuated by Commas

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Former senior airman, R. Brady Johnson, survived a cerebral hemorrhage and stroke.When stroke survivor R. Brady Johnson first visited Mayo Clinic nearly nine years ago, his doctors didn't quite know what to make of him. Not only was his stroke, at age 31, unusual, but his post-stroke physicality surprised the team of neurologists he'd come to see.

It had been just over a year since Brady, who lives in Belvedere, Illinois, had a major stroke during a surgery to mitigate a cerebral hemorrhage. The stroke cost him the sensation in his right side, the ability to speak, to run, and a litany of other abilities. Yet, in the time between the stroke and visiting Mayo, the former senior airman for the U.S. Air Force and marathon runner had managed to coax his body to do things that his rehabilitation team initially said would be impossible.

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Tags: Cerebral Hemorrhage, Neurology & Neurosurgery, neurosurgery, stroke


May 31st, 2016

Mayo Physician Is One of the First Proton Beam Patients in Arizona

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Dr. Leslie Milde was one of the first proton beam therapy patients in Arizona. People often don't hear the phrase, "You are the most important person in my life today," especially from those other than family. However, Leslie Milde, M.D., has heard it often — from her patients. She is well aware of the significance of her role in the operating room, and the apprehension felt by patients about to undergo surgery.

Now the tables are turned, and as one of the first five patients undergoing proton beam therapy at the newly opened Mayo Clinic Building in Phoenix, Dr. Milde, former chair of Mayo's Department of Anesthesiology in Arizona, is relying on key people in her own life — the team of specialists treating her spinal meningioma, a condition where tumors arise from the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Arizona campus, Dr Leslie Milde, Dr Naresh Patel, Dr Sujay Vora, Proton Beam Therapy, Spinal Meningioma, oncology, radiation therapy


May 23rd, 2016

Celebrating 40 Twice as Nice After Recovery From Surprising Stroke

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

Sherry Pinkstaff, Ph.D., enjoys time with family after a stroke.It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving, and despite having house guests, Sherry Pinkstaff, Ph.D., awoke at 6 a.m., just as she did every day, and began planning her morning run.

Sherry, then 39, ran daily. Exercise was important to her. After all, she’d made it her career. She was a professor of physical therapy at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville and a research collaborator at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus. She spends her days teaching students and patients about the power of exercise and its impact on cardiovascular health.

Climbing out of bed on this morning, though, she recalls feeling “off.” Although she initially shrugged off that feeling, she would quickly realize this was the first of several signs something more serious was in play.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Cardiovascular Diseases, Comprehensive Stroke Center, Dr Benjamin Brown, Florida Campus, Patent Foramen Ovale, Sherry Pinkstaff, stroke


April 1st, 2016

A New Weapon in the Arsenal for Patient With Stubborn Cancer: Proton Beam Therapy

By SharingMayoClinic SharingMayoClinic

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Audra Popp has a rare tumor – anaplastic pleomorphic xanthoastrocytoma, also known as anaplastic PXA. Only a handful of people are diagnosed with this condition each year. Audra is the first person at Mayo Clinic with anaplastic PXA to be treated with proton beam therapy.

Audra had 20 proton beam therapy sessions to try to destroy fast-growing cells possibly left behind after surgery.

But proton beam therapy is just the latest step in the battle against Audra's tumor. She's had five craniotomies since 2001, and she has a scar from her right ear to the crown of her head as evidence. She had surgeries at Mayo in 2007, 2009, 2014 and 2015. She also has had three regimens of chemotherapy through the years and six weeks of radiation therapy at Mayo Clinic in 2007.

The tumor has become more aggressive. And each time her surgeons think they have it completely removed, it comes back. Read the rest of this entry »

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Tags: anaplastic PXA, clinical trials, craniotomy, Dr Jan Buckner, Dr Nadia Laack, Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, Proton Beam Therapy


March 19th, 2016

Back in the Symphony After Surgery to Remove Brain Tumor

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Stewart Rosen in back in tune after surgery for acoustic neuroma.Stewart Rosen was beyond anxious when he learned he had a tumor the size of a walnut by his right ear. The tumor was benign. But Stewart, an accountant by day and violinist by night, worried that removing the tumor, an acoustic neuroma, might affect his ability to play music.

"I'd never had any kind of surgery or hospitalization before," he says. And with the surgery he'd need to remove this tumor, Stewart knew that he'd lose hearing in his right ear. That wasn't all. "I was afraid a facial nerve might become paralyzed or my vision would be affected," he says.

Stewart noticed a change in his hearing in his right ear, and a friend had recommended he see an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist. That doctor detected a major difference in hearing between Stewart's ears and ordered an MRI to rule out a brain tumor. Unfortunately, the MRI pointed to an acoustic neuromaRead the rest of this entry »

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Tags: Acoustic Neuroma, Audiology, Dr Michael Link, ENT, neurosurgery, Rochester Campus, Dr Colin Driscoll


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