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Sneaky Symptoms

Published on Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Lisa Gremel of Unionville, MI has chosen to share her story as an example of how easy it can be to brush off symptoms. 

Lisa’s symptoms began in early May 2017, when she began experiencing migraine-like symptoms. “I would have episodes of excruciating migraine pain,” Lisa said, “but they would only last about one-two minutes, and then I would feel fine.” During these episodes, Lisa would sometimes experience dizziness and light prisms in her periphery. The episodes happened as many as four times a day, but because she felt fine afterward, she wasn’t overly concerned. 

After experiencing these episodes for a month, Lisa met with her primary care physician, who recommended blood work, having an MRI and seeing an ophthalmologist. “I had a hysterectomy six months before and had recently turned 50, so it made sense that my symptoms could be due to age or hormonal changes,” Lisa said. Even though the physician ordered an MRI and blood work, Lisa wanted to meet with an ophthalmologist first, where she found out she did indeed need glasses. 

After receiving new glasses, Lisa’s episodes still happened at least once a day. “Toward the end of July, I was at work when I experienced a full-blown migraine,” Lisa said. “I had pain, nausea and vomiting, and finally said ‘this is more than an issue with my eyes!’” 

Lisa made plans to have blood work done, but before she had the chance, she had a major episode on Friday, August 4, 2017. “We were at a softball game, and I suddenly fainted,” Lisa said. “I was able to recover, had some water and felt ok, but my husband and daughter took me to the Emergency Room.” On her way to the ER, Lisa had several seizures. 

A CT scan in the ER revealed a 4.7- inch midline frontal tumor on Lisa’s brain, and her care team determined the episodes she experienced were likely premonitions of seizures or aura. Further imaging suggested the tumor could be a benign, slow-growing type prevalent in women. 

After learning more about her tumor, Lisa realized in hindsight that her sense of smell had changed. “I remembered my husband saying something about garbage smelling in our house, but I couldn’t smell it at the time,” Lisa said. “I later found out that many people with this type of tumor first realize something is wrong because they can no longer smell their coffee.” 

After her diagnosis, Lisa was placed in the care of McLaren Bay Region Neurosurgeon Sunil Manjila, MD, and surgery to remove her tumor was scheduled for August 25th. “I was blessed to have Dr. Manjila,” Lisa said. “My daughter’s wedding was coming up in October, and I was concerned about how I would look after surgery, but did realize this was small in comparison to having the tumor removed. He was so kind to listen to my concerns, and successfully removed the tumor with minimal hair removal. I can’t say enough good things about the care I received from everyone.” Dr. Manjila would also like to recognize Lisa VanHorn and Sheila Wing for their roles in Lisa’s care. 

It is clear from the photo that Lisa looked stunning at her daughter’s wedding! We are thankful to Lisa for sharing her story in the hopes of helping others.