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Seizing life at last

Refusing to surrender to seizures, epilepsy patient has surgery to remove recurring brain tumor

The bold patterns and bright colors of the kaleidoscope conjure creativity, spirit and imagination in childhood. But for Pam Meyer, the sensation of swirling hues is synonymous with seizures.

Meyer, of Independence, Mo., has lived with debilitating epileptic seizures for more than three decades. When she was 11, she had surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. Almost immediately after, Meyer began having grand mal seizures that caused loss of consciousness and muscle contraction.

Prior to these attacks, which occurred dozens of times a day and even during sleep, she sensed vibrant vision-obstructing auras.

“The auras would start small and grow larger, until I couldn’t see,” said Meyer, 43, mother of three. “I took a lot of medicine, but nothing worked. Memory was an issue and I had to quit playing sports because any time I became overheated, I had a seizure.”

Ending the nightmare

Meyer suffers from recurrent meningioma. She has had three brain surgeries to remove tumors, which develop at the back of her brain in the right occipital lobe.

Surgery she had in 2005 at a community hospital in the region led to insomnia, severe nerve damage in her left foot and triple vision. She was house-bound, walking with a cane and “living a nightmare.” When the tumor started growing again about five years later, she was treated in Nebraska. There, she had radiation five days a week for six weeks, but the tumor did not shrink.

Dissatisfied with decades of referrals and frustrating results, Meyer did her own research on epilepsy specialists. She discovered Nancy Hammond, MD, a neurologist at The University of Kansas Health System. The hospital is a Level 4 Epilepsy Center, one of about 100 healthcare facilities nationwide to earn the designation. Meyer emailed Dr. Hammond’s office, got a quick response and set up an appointment.

When Meyer met with Dr. Hammond, she had a comprehensive neurological evaluation, a review of all her medications and an MRI.

“Dr. Hammond takes time to listen to me,” Meyer said. “She is incredibly knowledgeable, so I feel fortunate to be in her care.”

Tumor-free at last

Following the MRI, which confirmed the presence of a tumor, Dr. Hammond referred Meyer to Roukoz Chamoun, MD, a neurosurgeon at the health system. Dr. Chamoun performed an open craniotomy in April 2014 to remove the tumor, and Meyer remains tumor-free.

“I’ve never been completely tumor-free,” Meyer said. “Dr. Chamoun is the only neurosurgeon who has been able to achieve that.”

Meyer still experiences focal seizures, which obstruct her vision, but they don’t deter her. She enjoys photography, painting and has recently learned to sew. In August, she flew for the first time to attend her son’s graduation from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

“Seizures no longer define me,” she said.