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by Karin L. Nauber

karin@inhnews.com

My sister likes to say, “God is good. Every day, God is good.” She might be saying it through tears, but she says it every time a new battle is placed before her. She says it in the morning. She says it in the evening. She says it every day.

You see, my younger sister, Pam (Nauber) Christensen has been battling a brain tumor for nearly two years.

It has changed her life in many ways.

The community of Miltona is hosting a benefit for her on Saturday, April 27 at the Miltona Community Center. There will be a spaghetti dinner, a raffle and a silent auction. It will be held from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. with the dinner served from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

 

Pam’s Story

On Saturday, July 8, 2017, Pam started feeling strange. She was dizzy, could barely walk and had a terrible migraine headache.

Pam is stubborn, but her husband, Robert, took her to the Alexandria Hospital emergency room where they found an abnormal mass in her brain.

From Alexandria, she was rushed to the St. Cloud Hospital where various other tests were performed to determine what was wrong.

There, they confirmed that the abnormal “massive mass” was a tumor accompanied by a large amount of swelling in the brain.

Initially, the tumor was considered inoperable as it was in a portion of her brain that, if altered, could cause permanent damage.

On July 9, Pam’s scan showed increasing brain swelling and she was rushed into surgery.

This surgery consisted of removing a portion of skull from the right side of her head to make room for the swelling.

On July 13 she was in surgery again to remove as much of the tumor as possible. This surgery took nine hours.

A few days later, on July 17, she had a second surgery to remove more of the tumor.

The funny thing about brain tissue and brain tumors is how much they resemble each other.

The doctors had a difficult time during this seven hour surgery because of the delicate nature of the procedure. Not all of the tumor could be removed, but the doctors got as much of it as they were able to.

Before the second tumor removal surgery, the family was given the results of the biopsy.

Great news! The tumor was found to be benign, meaning that it was not cancerous.

After the surgeries, Pam went through several weeks of physical therapy to strengthen her right side. She also participated in occupational therapy.

Later, she did pin-point radiation directly to the tumor site. She also did oral and IV chemotherapy to aid in stopping the tumor’s growth.

At one point, they replaced the large piece of skull they had removed, but it became infected and had to be removed shortly after.

This meant more surgery, more staples and stitches to pull the skin back together and a helmet to protect her brain while the skull piece was out.

On April 17, 2018 she underwent another surgery to put a new plate in her head. 

Another 70 plus staples and stitches later, she was home for a while and had started chemotherapy treatments.

June 14, they had to stop chemotherapy because they found two infections—a staph infection and MRSA. MRSA is methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus and is an infection caused by a strain of bacteria that is resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat ordinary staph infections. MRSA infections typically occur in patients who have been in a hospital or other healthcare settings.

Because of the infections, they had to take the plate out. She was able to go home, but had to take two antibiotics by IV.

Around October 2, the infection was cleared up and a new plate was put in.

Pam got another infection. Thankfully it wasn’t as bad this time.

The doctors did not want to remove the plate again and risk making the infection worse, so they wanted to try something different.

Unfortunately, they found out at this time, that Pam doesn’t have enough skin on her head to heal the incision.

Each time they had to open up her scalp to get into her brain, more and more skin was cut back.

Because chemotherapy and radiation weaken the skin, each time her scalp was cut open for a procedure, the area would create a scab while healing. However, each time a hole was forming in the skin because of how thin it had become. The skin was ripping and she was getting infections.

Her tenth surgery will be performed once the expanders are removed.

Options were discussed and on January 10, 2019, Pam had yet another surgery to put tissue expanders in her head to stretch the skin.

“They told me I will never have wrinkles on my face because my skin is so tight from all the head surgeries,” said Pam.

Using the expanders is very painful as every two weeks the doctors add more saline to them. They are basically balloons under the skin in her head which get larger and larger as they put more saline into them. They expand or stretch the skin with the hope of giving Pam a bit more skin should other surgeries be necessary. 

She will continue this treatment for a while yet.

Pam was working for the Miltona School prior to the discovery of the tumor. Since then she has not been able to return to work. She is not able to drive and has good days and bad days.

Even on her lowest days Pam still continues to say, “God is good. Every day, God is good.”

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