What? I have a tumor in my brain !

As with the desire of most Singaporeans, it is my great expectation to have retired after working for almost 40 years. During my working life as an office worker, it was rather common to have come across emotionally ‘headache’ situations from time to time. However, I cannot remember the last time I had a physical headache. Therefore I did not have to take MC during most of my working years. In fact, throughout my entire life I should have consumed less than an average of 1 panadol per year. I therefore have every confidence of the state of health of my brain.

After my retirement, I have signed up various health check programmes from time to time. One of them is the semi-annual eyes test. I still can maintain my perfect 6/6 vision for my right eye though the left eye keep failing in Vision Field test. After an MRI scan on 29 March 2015, it was discovered that there was a lump of tumor of about 18mm diameter. It was classified Pituitary Adenoma. I was told by the doctor that it was pressing on my optic nerve and hence I failed in my vision test. The bad news was that surgery is the most effective way to remove it.

On being informed that surgery is needed, the doctor has cautioned that my eyes could become blind if the tumor grew and totally pressed onto the optic nerve. On the other hand, the side effect of the surgery could mean

(i) blindness could still happen if the optic nerve were damaged during surgery,
(ii) partial stroke can happen due to disturbance to other nerve,
(iii) leakage of brain fluid could happen in the process of removing the tumor,
(iv) infection of the brain lining if damaged and
(v) hormone secretion problem in the pituitary gland.

Faced with so many risk factors, I was quite in a dilemma as to decide whether to proceed with the surgery. The following weeks were all spent on finding out more information regarding the tumor and evaluate the risks and benefit of the surgery.

Finally I decided to proceed with the surgery through the noses (transsphenoidal surgery) in early May 2015. The surgery was successful but it was unfortunate that brain fluid leakage occurred, ‘fat grafting’ from my stomach was necessary. It was also awful to have the noses blocked up and breath through the mouth for the first night after surgery. Luckily, knowing how to swim helps a lot. I was warded for 7 days.

After discharge, I could really experience how a physical headache look like in the second week! I also lost the sense of smell for about a month – so during this period all public toilets are pleasant to use, also eating durians without sensing its smell!

Thank God that the headache has gone and my noses functions have almost recovered. The only outstanding issue now is my hormone level need to be closely monitored as the surgery was done next to the master gland. I will have to consult the Endocrine doctor for the rest of my life.




An Inspirational Story of Aloysius & Denyse…

My fiancée & I were making plans for marriage when I met with a cycling accident in December 2013. I passed out from the accident and was admitted to hospital. Brain scans picked up a mass in my brain. The MRI confirmed the tumour and I was diagnosed with a Trigeminal Schwannoma. As I was not experiencing any symptom, I could not accept my condition. Over the next nine months, I sought medical advice from various doctors; the consensus was to have surgery. It took me some time for me to accept that I had to take this step, through a combination of support from my fiancée and my parents, my new found faith in God, friends in church, and finding out more from others who had been through the journey such as Melissa Lim, founder of BTSS.

On September 2014, I went for the operation to remove my tumour. Over the next six weeks, I had to re-learn even the most basic of human tasks such as walking through twice-daily physiotheraphy sessions. I suffered the after effects of facial paralysis, loss of hearing, double vision, dry eyes, walking unsteadiness, nausea, vomiting, dizziness & headache. I am pleased to say I am healed of most of these symptoms and my health is getting better as the days pass. I am no longer on medication but I still have regular visits to the neurosurgeon for follow-up. I was very fortunate during that period to have support and encouragement from my parents, fiancée and the BTSS members who took turns to come visit me almost every other day. Their encouragement and advice for gave us more information and insight how to go through the entire process.I have stopped cycling and have switched to light exercises such as stationary bikes and jogging. I have also picked up more therapeutic and stress relieving hobbies like reading and playing the piano.

Denyse and I were married on February 2015, 5 months after my operation. Before my diagnosis, we have been together for 12 years. We have been through many ups and downs, although my medical condition was a major life challenge, it wasn’t something we could not overcome together. I am blessed my religion has helped me through this journey. Now I have a new role as a husband, I have to live strong not just for myself but also my new family. I am feeling great and appreciate every single day.

BTSS has helped me in understanding that I am not on this journey alone. Through meetings with other survivors and patients, we share our stories and motivate each other during this journey. Sometimes it can be tough to share our feelings and thoughts to our family and friends who have not been through this. The talks and the sharing from the nurses during the BTSS meeting has also helped me to get more insights into what brain tumour is all about, the things to look out for, what can be done to improve the quality of life.

I am often reminded of this quote:
It ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.” ~ Rocky Balboa