Three weeks before her wedding, life seemed busy but normal for bride-to-be Tracey Durrett, as she juggled the demands of work and wedding planning. A migraine sufferer since childhood, 44-year-old Durrett had learned to cope with frequent, severe headaches, relying on over-the-counter medicine to see her through. But then—in the midst of ordering wedding flowers and figuring out guest seating—a headache struck that she describes as "unbearable."
I no longer feel like I'm just surviving every day. I’m living every day.
This time, the pain came with new, disturbing symptoms. "I started having vision problems and balance problems," she says. "My short-term memory was gone. The pain was so bad I couldn't sleep. I couldn't even function."
At the urging of her mother and her fiancé Darrell, Durrett went to see an optometrist, who discovered that both of Durrett's optic nerves were swollen and bulging. The Santa Clara resident was promptly referred to Joseph Welsh, M.D., a neurosurgeon at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Dr. Welsh recommended an MRI scan of her brain, which revealed something that shocked even her doctors.
A tumor the size of a fist was growing in the right frontal lobe of Durrett's brain. The good news was that it was not cancerous. The bad news was that Durrett would need surgery to remove it—right away.
"We were pretty much in shock," Durrett says. "In the six-day interim between being diagnosed and having my surgery, I was on the phone calling all our wedding guests to tell them that the wedding was not going to happen. We were scared that I might not make it through."
But rather than cancelling the big day, Darrell suggested the couple move up the wedding—and get married the day before Durrett's operation. And so they did—in a small ceremony in a friend's backyard, surrounded by 15 close friends and family members. "It was so beautiful!" Durrett says. "There was no music, so everybody hummed!"
Following the big event, the couple went home and prepared for the impending surgery, including cutting Durrett's hair short. The next morning, the couple drove to the hospital. "I think it's probably the hardest thing we ever had to go through," Durrett says.
The surgery was a success and the effects were life-changing for Durrett. "Before my surgery, I can literally say life was a headache. I needed seven or eight different medications to be able to function on a daily basis," she says. Today her headaches are gone and she has regained all her motor skills.
"I do not think I could have gotten better care than I got at PAMF. Everybody at this clinic has been so supportive and friendly throughout my treatment, surgery and recovery. It made me confident that I would make it through this," she says.
She adds, "I no longer feel like I'm just surviving every day. I'm living every day, and I couldn't be happier. If I could say anything to my medical team at PAMF, I'd say, 'You guys are my heroes. You gave me back my life and gave me back to my family.'"