Plastic surgery for a brain tumor
Life was a whirlwind of activity for Erin Crea when her son was just one month old. Besides the added work that came with being a new mom, she was balancing a career as a project manager for a large events company and trying to buy a house.
The competing responsibilities made Crea realize she needed a little time for herself, so she decided to venture out of her house alone and go to the mall. But something went wrong before her plan came to fruition. The last thing Crea remembered was leaving her driveway – and instead of shopping at the mall, she woke up in an emergency room.
"As a mother with a newborn, it was assumed that I had an accident because I was exhausted," said Crea. "But actually, it was more sinister than that. In the end, it was not exhaustion that caused my accident. It was a seizure."
Finding a tumor
The seizure led to the discovery of a tumor in Crea's brain. She said the brain tumor was an incidental finding. And after that, the plan of attack focused on how best to treat not only the seizures, but the tumor as well.
"I was referred to neurosurgery, and I was monitored. Every four months I had an MRI, and at that time and for the year following, it had not grown. The tumor was the size of a blueberry when it was discovered," said Crea. "And due to my age and wanting to start a family, I was followed over the course of two years and had a few MRIs each year, and it was stable."
Becoming pregnant again
In 2015, Crea decided it was time to continue growing her family and became pregnant with her daughter, during which time she could not have an MRI. Whether or not the tumor had grown was unknown during that time. She gave birth in 2016.
"I was then able to have an MRI, and it showed that my tumor had quadrupled in size, and surgery became more real at that time," said Crea. "I always knew it was lingering in the background and it was something that I put off because I had a young family and I was balancing my work, and we just bought a new home, and I was trying to figure out if my health is OK and it was determined that when my daughter was five months old, that surgery was needed and it was a very scary time for me because the incision, I understood, was open cranial surgery."
Discussing an entry point
The tumor was located behind Crea's eyebrow. Doctors discussed a classic ear-to-ear cranial incision where the skin of the face is pulled down to access the tumor after the incision is made.
"This type of surgery could result in facial paralysis. And it was scary for me to think that my children wouldn't know if I was happy or sad," said Crea. "Thankfully, my plastic surgeon suggested an alternate approach rather than the ear-to-ear incision and pulling my face down to remove the tumor."
Instead, a bone window could be made on her brow bone, and the tumor removed that way. This would ensure that the contours of her face stayed the same and that she wouldn't have paralysis or loss of muscle movements.
Her plastic surgeon enhanced her surgery
"My plastic surgeon made a bone window incision. The tumor was removed, and he meticulously sutured the line of my eyebrow back, and he made me appear as if the surgery never happened," said Crea. "So, I am three years post-surgery, and I feel great. I feel like myself, I feel like that time is such a distant memory, and I feel that my plastic surgeon really made sure it did not impact my future health or my lifestyle very much."
Crea said that because her plastic surgeon knew she had an active family and job to get back to, he went above and beyond to make sure that she had the best possible outcome possible.
"My plastic surgeon, he physically restored me. And when I left that operating room and I left the hospital, I felt a wave of relief, and I felt confident that I could go on and live my life and know that I look how I always had prior to my surgery," said Crea. "I looked like my husband's wife. I looked like my children's mother. I looked like my parents' daughter. I look like how I know myself to be."
To find a qualified plastic surgeon for any cosmetic or reconstructive procedure, consult a member of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. All ASPS members are board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, have completed an accredited plastic surgery training program, practice in accredited facilities and follow strict standards of safety and ethics. Find an ASPS member in your area.