Let me start off by saying that i also do not live in San Deigo but went to Dr. Cueva on the recommendation of an otoneurologist who is a personal friend. His recommendation was that he is as skilled or more so than others throughout the US.
My an was diagnosed late, accounting for its large size and long duration - they estimate 10 years. I had severe hearing loss but no other symptoms until the month before my surgery, when I developed a constant headache and intermittent dizziness.
I was diagnosed with a CT scan followed by an MRI with contrast within a week of going to a GP with my symptoms, and had surgery within a few weeks. I sought 3 other opinions and all otoneurologists and neurosurgeons agreed - a very large tumor with brainstem involvement that must be removed quickly. Due to large size and location, radiosurgery was no longer an option.
I had a right side translab and stayed in hospital for 3 days with no complications. For recovery, I followed an exercise regimen recommended by the team, and then took up tai chi with a personal trainer who tailored her training to my recovering abilites. i still do these routines daily.
My one year checkup revealed no new growth. I have no hearing on the right, some slight difficulty walking at night or on uneven ground, and loss of sensation in about 15% of my tongue (but this is dimishing). Other symptoms I had after surgery - dry eye, dizziness, poor sleep, fatigue - have resolved over time. I have returned to work, drive at night, fly everywhere, etc.
Bottom line for me: It was hard but with support you can recover almost completely. Kaiser at this level is as excellent as any others in the field. The main change is, I now am very open about my hearing loss, telling people where I would like to be seated for better hearing, especially in restaurants. Given what might have happened, this is small change.
Every case is unique and you are wise to start early.