Tanya’s story was written by Health Sciences Center Foundation in Winnipeg and she wanted to share her journey here as well.
These weren’t ordinary headaches. They were intense. So intense that Tanya Swanson found herself vomiting from the pressure and pain that seared into the back of her head through the back of her head. “It wasn’t normal. You know when something’s wrong with your body,” she says.
In November 2009, Tanya had a CT scan followed by an MRI when the results showed a mass at the back of her head. Soon, she was back at HSC for an appointment with Dr. Michael West in the neurosurgery department.
Her heart sunk when she heard the words: “You have a brain tumour.” How could this be happening to her? She was stunned. Then determination took over.
“On December 15, 2009, I found out I had a brain tumour. And on that very same day, I decided I was going to beat it.”
Brain surgery was scheduled for late January, Tanya and the doctors had a lot of preparation to do before then. She underwent multiple tests and scans, then mid-January, the good news came. Based on her latest scans, she was a perfect candidate for Gamma Knife surgery. Having heard of this technology available at HSC, Tanya was thrilled. It meant a dramatic change in surgery and recovery from what she had anticipated.
Standard surgery meant a week in the hospital followed by six to twelve months off of work. Gamma surgery meant she would be in and out in one day and back to work within a week.
At 5:00am on January 27, 2010, Tanya arrived at HSC. She was greeted by a nurse and two other patients. “I was the only patient from Winnipeg,” she said. “The other two had to fly in as they don’t have this fabulous machine in their hospital. See how lucky we are—and how lucky I was!”
Nurses covered her head with freezing gel and placed a head frame on her. They then walked her through\ each detail of what to expect. After a CT scan and a bite to eat, Tanya was ready for surgery.
She recalls, “I lay in this wonderful machine (for me it was for almost two hours). I brought in a CD and was able to listen to my own music during the procedure. I sang my heart out… and apologized to the nurses and doctors who had to hear me for two hours! Then, suddenly, it was over. It didn’t hurt. Sure, it was uncomfortable… but it didn’t hurt. I came out, not feeling much different at all.”
Nurses removed the head frame, ran some checks, and the doctor offered a recap. An hour later, Tanya went home. That same day.
At home that night, Tanya says, “Physically, I felt fine. Emotionally, it was a rough day. I just wanted to be with my family, to hug them, love them. I was happy to be okay again.”
She took a week off work just for an emotional break, then she was back full tilt at her normal life. Two years later, Tanya is doing great. The headaches are gone. She is vibrant and full of life. “We’re never dealt anything we can’t handle,” she says. “I truly believe that.”
Today, HSC holds a special place in her heart. “I knew HSC was there but I had no idea what it had to offer until I became a patient. I’m so grateful to the staff… and for the technology – the gamma knife. Together, they gave me a second chance and a quick recovery.”