'After My Tumor Was Removed, No One Knew I'd Had Brain Surgery'

Patient Story

What would make a healthy 40-year-old woman suddenly feel dizzy, shaky and unable to lift her right arm? “I was afraid I'd had a mini-stroke,” admits Kim Caruso.

This frightening episode is what brought Kim to Dr. Foroohar. Today, after brain surgery to remove a benign tumor—with a nearly invisible scar—Kim is back to kickboxing, weightlifting and cycling. Here is her story.

“One day shortly before Christmas in 2009, I was at work on my computer,” Kim recalls. “We were really busy. I was stressed and I started feeling shaky.

“As I was looking at my mouse and moving it and trying to type, I could see the mouse moving, but it was like my hand wasn't moving it,” says Kim. “I felt dizzy and hot. I stood up and asked if anybody else felt hot—but no.”

‘Something is wrong with me’

“I said to my coworkers, ‘There's something wrong with me,’” Kim recalls. “I ran to the bathroom and by the time I got there, I couldn't lift my right arm to open the door. When I got into the bathroom and went to splash cold water on my face, I still couldn't lift my right arm. I started freaking out, thinking that I was going to pass out in the bathroom and no one was going to find me.

“I went down to our manager's office and told her that something wasn't right,” says Kim. “By then, I could move my right arm, but I was having an anxiety attack.”

Kim's parents came and picked her up from work. “I don't know whether my mom thought I was exaggerating or that I was OK,” Kim recalls. “My mom stayed with me that night and said, ‘We'll go see the doctor in the morning. I think you're OK; nothing's wrong with you.’”

Kim still wanted to know what had happened. “I started doing Google searches and I told my mom, ‘I think I had a mini-stroke,’” Kim recalls. “And she said, ‘Kim, you did not have a mini-stroke; you're fine. You can still talk.’

“I said, ‘Yes, but one symptom is that you can't move your arm or your leg,’” Kim recalls. “In hindsight, I probably should have gone to the ER, but I didn't. I went in to my regular doctor, who did a series of tests and still couldn't figure it out. Then he sent me to the hospital for a CT scan, which revealed a brain tumor.”

Kim's doctor recommends Dr. Foroohar

“When my doctor saw the CT scan, he immediately recommended Dr. Foroohar,” says Kim. “I went back the next day and talked to him. I basically asked how comfortable he was with her—whether he would send his own mother to her—and he said he would go to her himself. He said I should definitely go see her.

“So I went to see Dr. Foroohar—and I loved her,” Kim recalls. “She made me feel extremely comfortable.

“I didn't know what to expect; I was obviously scared,” says Kim. “They told me from the beginning that the tumor was benign, but in my head, I was thinking, ‘From a CT scan, how can you tell it's benign?’ Obviously, they have their ways, but still...

“Just going in there and talking with Dr. Foroohar—her demeanor, the way she talks—she had a comfort level that totally put me at ease,” Kim explains. “I was more scared about having surgery in general, because I'd never had surgery before—to go straight from zero to brain surgery. I was more scared of being put under than of actually having her operate on me.”

Diagnosis: Meningioma

“Kim's CT and MRI brain revealed a 3.5 cm enhancing left parietal tumor,” says Dr. Foroohar. “These findings were suggestive of meningioma. Due to Kim's age and the size and location of her tumor, I recommended resection, or surgical removal.”

“Dr. Foroohar said I'd probably been living with the tumor for five to six years,” Kim explains. “And it just got to the point where it was not invading my brain, but was pushing on it. She called what happened to me a seizure. I didn't realize you could have a seizure by not being able to move your arm.”

Kim has surgery

“I had brain surgery on January 4, 2010, within two weeks of being diagnosed,” Kim recalls. “Dr. Foroohar fit me into her schedule fairly quickly. I was in the hospital for two days—I had surgery on Monday and was released Wednesday morning.

“By February 9, I went back to work,” says Kim. “I probably could have gone back sooner than that, but I didn't want to push it.”

‘No one will know you've had brain surgery unless you tell them’

“Dr. Foroohar is so caring,” says Kim. “When I talked with her before my surgery, she said, ‘I just want to let you know that, not only for appearance but for privacy's sake, I shave as little hair as possible. This way, you won't have to sit and answer questions from anybody you don't want to tell. No one will know that you had brain surgery. You don't have to worry about having a million questions.’

“The incision on my head goes from the top of my head all the way down to my ear,” Kim explains. “So you can imagine how much hair would have to be shaved if another surgeon got in there—half of my head would have to be shaved.

“My incision was a tiny, thin little line,” says Kim. “My neighbor came over and dropped off a CARE package for me the day I got home from the hospital—two days after surgery. When my neighbor came in, she looked at me and said, ‘Are you sure you had brain surgery?’ The incision was a thin line that just went straight down. You would never know.”

Getting back to normal

“People had always told me that after surgery, it takes a while to get back in the swing of things,” Kim recalls. “The way Dr. Foroohar explained it is, your brain is kind of molded into the inside of your skull, and when she went in there, it kind of sunk down and shifted a little bit, and it had to fill that space back up. Until the brain gets back into the right place where it's used to being, it's kind of weird. You feel a little bit ‘off.’

“After my surgery, I was on anti-seizure medication until March,” says Kim. “I went to see a neurologist that Dr. Foroohar recommended as well. She kept me on the anti-seizure medication just as a precaution. She seemed to think that the seizure was caused by the brain tumor. I've never had anything since.”

Returning to an active lifestyle

“I feel excellent!” Kim says. “After surgery, I was back to working out and doing everything normal by June. I took it easier than I probably should have.

“Right now, I'm doing kickboxing and weightlifting classes and cycling,” Kim adds. “I do step classes and work out six, sometimes seven days a week. I was doing that before, too, so that's why it kind of freaked me out so much—I'm in good shape—that something like that could happen to me.

“Kim did very well post-operatively, with no neurological deficits,” [link to glossary definition] says Dr. Foroohar. “The plan is for her to have a yearly MRI brain to assess for any recurrence.”

“I would recommend Dr. Foroohar without a smidgeon of a doubt,” says Kim. “I honestly wish she was an internist, so I would go to see her for everything. She's just wonderful. Her staff is excellent, too.”