“The day I woke up and had that MRI, I never thought in a million years that I would have a brain tumor,” Melissa Geiser recalls. The mother of three had suffered from migraines for most of her life, and her doctor had finally ordered an MRI. At first the results were inconclusive, even suggesting she had suffered a stroke. But she persisted in searching for answers and finally received a diagnosis, confirmed by specialists from across the country: a type of glioma called anaplastic astrocytoma. Because of where it was located in her thalamus, they deemed it inoperable.
“It was a complete shock,” Melissa says. “I hadn’t had any symptoms at all. The MRI was just for migraines, which I’d had since I was a teenager, so that wasn’t anything out of the norm.”
Not content to wait and see what would happen if the tumor remained in place, Melissa met with a neurosurgeon at the Barrow Neurological Institute and asked him to help her find a doctor who could remove it. He recommended Dr. Nader Sanai, Director of Neurosurgical Oncology and Director of the Ivy Brain Tumor Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute.
“He said that Dr. Sanai was changing the way gliomas are being treated,” Melissa says. “From the moment I met him, I knew he was my doctor. Dr. Sanai was experienced, confident and compassionate. He made me feel like I wasn’t alone in this journey.”
Dr. Sanai was able to remove the entire tumor, and less than two days later, Melissa was released from the hospital. The tumor was high-grade, so she also underwent 43 days of radiation and one year of chemotherapy.
Now seven years later, Melissa feels like her whole world has changed – for the better. She doesn’t take anything for granted and lives in the moment. And she has made it her personal mission to advocate on behalf of other brain tumor patients who have been told nothing can be done.
“I’ve referred patients I’ve met from all over the country to Dr. Sanai. The clinical trials and surgeries they perform at Barrow are helping and giving hope to so many people.”