In fall of 2019, 54-year-old Sherry Seamon of New Lothrop, Michigan was living a normal, healthy life. But over the course of a few weeks, she began to experience subtle hearing loss in her left ear.
“I didn’t think much of it at first,” remembers Sherry. “But, I figured it was worth seeing my doctor about.”
In January of 2020, Sherry saw her primary care physician who was troubled by her problem and referred her to an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist to further investigate the mysterious hearing loss. After scoring poorly on a hearing test, it was decided an MRI would be needed to determine whether there was a bigger problem that could offer a possible diagnosis.
Less than four weeks later, Sherry received a startling confirmation.
“The doctor basically informed me I had a benign tumor that was disrupting my hearing. The thought of a tumor, benign or not, was just really scary,” recalls Sherry.
Known as a vestibular schwannoma (previously called acoustic neuroma), Sherry learned that this was a benign tumor on the nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain. While this kind of tumor usually grows slowly, it may be fatal if left untreated. It was more than enough for Sherry to determine she needed help from the leading minds of Michigan Medicine.
I knew I found the right place to get the help I needed.
“I felt at home right away,” says Sherry. “Dr. Telian and his team had a lot of experience, so I knew I found the right place to get the help I needed.”
There was one twist she was not prepared for.
“They said I would need to lose 60 to 100 pounds before surgery to prevent potentially serious complications. I knew they were right, but weight loss had always been a struggle for me. I didn’t know how I was going to do it,” quotes Sherry.
And that’s when Sherry experienced the greatest twist of all. Not two weeks later, the world went into lockdown to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. Like so many people, quarantine forced Sherry to see things in a different light. She resolved to use the pandemic as an opportunity to take the necessary time to lose the weight.
“My routine changed in a lot of ways over that summer. I was with my husband more and we did things around the house and I forced myself to be more active. Slowly, but surely, I lost 57 pounds in six months,” stated Sherry. Now she was ready for the next step in her journey.
“We talked with Sherry about her options and what the surgery would involve,” shared Dr. Telian. “Sometimes with smaller tumors, we can remove the tumor and preserve hearing, but her tumor was too large for this to be a realistic option. Without surgery, she would have lost all hearing in that ear within a few years and the operation would have become much more dangerous from the additional tumor growth.
Sherry was soon scheduled for surgery.
The U-M team was able to remove the tumor with no complications. While Sherry did lose hearing in her left ear, it was something she’d prepared for.
“No one wants to lose their hearing, but I had enough time to make peace with it and, honestly, getting rid of the tumor was much more important. I’m doing great and hearing out of my right ear, so I’m very grateful,” notes a thoughtful Sherry.
Now back at work and spending time with her husband and three daughters, Sherry reflects on what her experience has given her.
“I can do so much more now than a year ago, like climb stairs easily thanks to the weight loss,” says Sherry. “Maybe this condition was a blessing in disguise.”
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