I am a PhD student at University of Cambridge in the UK. I study the importance of the layer of fallen leaves on the ground for the rainforest at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama. When I started feeling dizzy, I thought it was the stress of grad school, but then I lost hearing in one ear.
At 36 years old, with a 1.7cm fast-growing acoustic neuroma, I needed brain surgery in the next few months. With this shocking news, all I could ask the doctor was, “Acoustic neuroma – how do you spell that?”
I desperately wanted to know more, but my background in plant science wasn’t helping me understand the medical journal articles. When I found the Acoustic Neuroma Association, it was a dream come true: all the same information but in a format that I could understand without a medical degree!
After much reading and watching webinars on the ANA website, I was ready for my appointment with the neurosurgeon. Following ANA’s suggestion to seek multiple opinions, that appointment was not my last. Each time I discussed my case with another neurosurgeon, I gained better understanding of my diagnosis and options. The initial fear and dread were replaced with knowledge and empowerment. I scheduled surgery with a neurosurgeon and facility where I felt very comfortable. Awaiting my surgery, I spoke with an ANA Peer Mentor. She had been through the surgery I was facing, and had come out on the other side healthy and happy.
After successful surgery, many questions arose on my long road to recovery. I kept turning back to ANA resources and continued to find a wealth of information in an accessible format. As a scientist, information eases my fear. I wanted to give back to this organization that was there for me every step of the way and I look forward to supporting other patients as a new Peer Mentor.
This summer, I invite you to join me in making a contribution to ANA so that this vital organization is available to everyone impacted by acoustic neuroma.
Sara Fern Leitman
2019 Summer Campaign Chair