In early 2019, Michelle Phillips Preng found herself battling crippling anxiety, memory loss, and struggles with vision at night. At the time, Michelle had just gone through a divorce, and her symptoms were often dismissed as signs of stress from the experience. But Michelle – an otherwise healthy and active 45-year-old – knew something wasn’t right. The memory issues became so overwhelming that the mother of two quit her job and started looking for answers.
An endocrinologist prescribed Michelle vitamin D supplements, which alleviated some of her symptoms, but all continued at a more moderate level. The endocrinologist also recommended Michelle get her thyroid removed, though no evidence proved it was necessary.
However, Michelle’s sister, an employee at TIRR Memorial Hermann-Kirby Glen, urged her to get a second opinion from a neurologist. When Michelle went to Memorial Hermann in November, an MRI revealed she had a baseball-sized tumor in her brain.
On Dec. 16, 2019, Michelle went in for a 10-hour surgery performed by Nitin Tandon, MD, professor and chair ad interim of the Vivian L. Smith Department of Neurosurgery with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and neurosurgeon at Memorial Hermann. Tandon removed most of Michelle’s tumor, but intentionally left a grape-sized portion that was hitting a critical nerve.
After three days in the ICU, Michelle was released from the hospital, followed by rehabilitation at TIRR outpatient. She returned fully to life and work 90 days after surgery. Nearly four years later, not only have Michelle’s anxiety issues ceased, but her memory and vision issues have gotten significantly better. She’s also remarried, and is back to working full time in an instructional role for a school district and selling real estate.
“As it turns out, the grape-sized tumor didn’t follow expectations. It’s actually shrinking,” Michelle said. “Because of Dr. Tandon, I have a whole life again.”
At the Bedside is a series of patient stories with UTHealth Houston physicians and staff.
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