A retired preschool teacher, Erika Bauserman, is passionate about child literacy. Since moving to St. Augustine, Florida, from Illinois in 2011, Erika spends much of her time volunteering with the Early Learning Coalition of North Florida to encourage reading among preschoolers.
In addition to her dedication to helping kids learn, Erika also is an avid photographer who enjoys capturing images of life around her from behind a lens. Her ability to continue pursuing these passions seemed to be in jeopardy, however, when it was discovered that Erika had carcinoid tumors on her lungs and a previously slow-growing, benign tumor began to cause problems.
Thanks to Mayo’s multidisciplinary team approach, Erika has now put those health concerns behind her and returned to the activities she loves most.
In 2005, when Erika lived in Libertyville, Illinois, her doctors found that she had a meningioma — a tumor that arises from the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Because meningiomas tend to be slow-growing, and because hers was small, wasn't causing any bothersome symptoms, and didn't appear to be cancerous, Erika's care team told her she didn't need to worry about it.
As part of her care, Erika had a CT scan. It revealed nodules in her lungs. Her primary care doctor, Elizabeth Rauschenberger, M.D., in Family Medicine, referred her to Pulmonology. After further evaluation, it was discovered that the nodules were carcinoid tumors.
During an imaging study known as an octreotide scan that was used to determine the exact location of the carcinoid tumors, the tumor in Erika's brain lit up and revealed that the meningioma had grown to the size of a golf ball.
First, cardiothoracic surgeon Matthew Thomas, M.D., removed the carcinoid tumors in her lungs in July 2016. After that, Erika then met with neurosurgeon Betty Kim, M.D., Ph.D., to discuss the meningioma. Although the tumor wasn't cancerous, it was growing. And it had the potential to cause serious problems.
"It was squeezing my brain, and would continue to grow and impact my fine motor area," Erika says. "So Dr. Kim told me she would need to remove it."
On June 8, 2017, Dr. Kim performed a surgical procedure to remove the tumor from Erika's brain. The five-hour surgery was a success. When Erika awoke, the tumor was gone, and she would need no additional treatment.
"Dr. Kim came up to my room while I was recovering and couldn't believe I was doing word search puzzles," Erika says. "We were both so excited."
A follow-up brain scan four months later confirmed that no traces of the meningioma remained.
"My experience at Mayo was exceptional. Dr. Kim is a very brilliant woman, and she assembled a great team," Erika says. "The doctors were very thorough and responsive, and the nursing care was phenomenal."
With the carcinoid tumors and the meningioma taken care of, Erika has turned her attention back to the work that means so much to her. Since the surgery, her involvement with the Early Learning Coalition has expanded to include two additional programs: science exploration and a fine arts program.
"I have a lot of passion for what I do, and the coalition has allowed me to use skills I have as a preschool teacher to give back to my community," Erika says. "Now that I'm 100 percent healthy, I can do that worry-free."