My husband did the research
Josephine's story

I am a Director of Religious Education (DRE) at Notre Dame Catholic Church in Houston. I am married and have two boys age 22 and 27.  For over 12 years, I had been experiencing gradual loss of hearing which I just attributed to getting older. My husband finally insisted that I get examined to find out what was the problem. I told my primary care physician (PCP) of my hearing loss and how I kept hearing a ringing in my ear.   After testing my hearing loss he sent my to get an MRI.

On 4/20/98, at age 55, I got the diagnosis: Acoustic Neuroma (Vestibular Schwanoma) of the right ear.  Tumor was in the bony canal between the brain cavity and the inner ear.  (The bony canal carries the nerves to the face muscles on the right side, the organs of balance and of hearing in that ear).  I do not recall the exact size of the tumor but the doctor said it was about the size of my little finger and about the area of my finger nail on the little finger. I think it was about 8 mm long.

I was first referred to a surgeon who wanted to perform a translabyrinthine excision in which they would take a piece of bone from behind my ear, remove all of the organs of the inner ear and then remove the tumor.  With all the possible complications from the surgery, I was not comfortable with the procedure. However, the tumor could not be left alone since it would eventually grow into the brain cavity causing pressure on the brain and many other problems.

The doctor did say that another approach was the use of radiation via the gamma knife. My husband started searching the internet for further information and helped me get a lot of information about the gamma knife procedure.  I must say that the research my husband performed was of great comfort to me. His father and mother were both physicians so he was able to understand a lot of the technical material he found on the internet.   His work helped us to be very active participants in working with our doctors in choosing the kind of care with which I could feel comfortable.

We asked our PCP for another referral and were referred to Dr. William B. Gormley.   We settled on the gamma knife procedure over the surgery due to the significantly lower complications versus the surgery, and I was treated by Dr. Gromley on 7/10/98 using the Gamma Knife procedure at Hermann Hospital in Houston, Texas.  Dr. Gromley can be reached at 713-704-6445.

I have been very pleased with the results. I was out of work for only three days. I am due to go back for another MRI this coming July to check to see if the 1st treatment got all of the tumor. It does most of the time but if not, I will have to have a 2nd treatment. Only time will tell.

I know that some people do not like the thought of a dead tumor still in their head but that does not bother me as long as my quality of life can be sustained.  These kind of tumors are non-malignant and very slow growing, but I did wait too long to have my problem checked. As a result, I have about a 95% loss of hearing in my right ear due to the tumor pressure on the auditory nerve.

Please feel free to e-mail or write me if you have questions or need a friend.

Josephine G. Lowell <dklowell AT iapc.net>
11703 Neff St., Houston, TX 77072-2425
January 1999

Last Edited: Wednesday, October 30, 2002