Several years ago, while completing an errand, Shari Benedict walked up a flight of eight stairs to reach her destination. As she turned around to walk down the stairs, Shari fell. As she gathered herself after the fall, Shari remembers her head being sore, cut up, and starting to swell. A bystander called for an ambulance, which took Shari to The Valley Hospital Emergency Department.
By the time Shari arrived at the emergency room, a lump had begun to form on her head and bruising was visible. The Emergency Department team conducted several imaging tests, including x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs, to determine if internal damage had occurred. The imaging did not reveal any signs of a concussion or deeper trauma to the impacted area. To Shari’s surprise, the imaging did, however, depict a brain meningioma, the size of a golf ball, a condition Shari was unaware of.
Shari was moved from the emergency department to the neurology intensive care unit (neuro-ICU) for additional evaluation and specialized treatment. William Cobb, MD, PhD, FAANS, Director of Neurosurgical Oncology, The Valley Hospital, visited the neuro-ICU to provide Shari with additional information on her condition and explain available treatment options.
“Shari presented a complex case because her meningioma was positioned in close proximity to critical structures, including the middle and anterior cerebral arteries, carotid artery, and left optic nerve,” said Dr. Cobb. “We knew our treatment plan would need to focus on removing the tumor while preserving the nearby structures.
“To do this as safely as possible, we recommended a personalized treatment plan, which would involve a craniotomy procedure followed by Gamma Knife stereotactic radiosurgery,” said Dr. Cobb.
A craniotomy, a surgical intervention where a section of the skull is removed to access the brain underneath, was recommended as the first treatment in the multi-faceted treatment plan. Using this technique, the team would remove the vast majority of the meningioma, without damaging surrounding brain tissue or structures.
After healing from the craniotomy, the team proposed Gamma Knife radiosurgery, a non-invasive, outpatient procedure that uses radiation to treat brain conditions, to address the remaining residual tumor. Using focused doses of radiation, Gamma Knife treats a specific lesion on the brain with pinpoint accuracy, preventing damage to surrounding brain tissue and sparing the normal brain.
“I knew this unexpected diagnosis was overwhelming, so I told Shari to take some time and think everything through,” said Dr. Cobb.
Shari did exactly that. She visited a few specialists to gain second opinions and explore additional treatment options.
“During one of my ‘second opinion’ visits, I asked the physician ‘if your loved one was diagnosed with a brain meningioma, who would you see for treatment?’” said Shari. “The physician told me that Dr. Cobb would be his first choice, and because of Valley’s affiliation with the Mount Sinai Health System, I would receive collaborative care from a specialized team.
“When I left that office, I called Dr. Cobb and told his team that I was ready to move forward with treatment,” said Shari.
Shari underwent a craniotomy at The Valley Hospital, which successfully removed 90 percent of her meningioma. After about two months of healing, Shari visited The Valley Hospital Gamma Knife Center and received Gamma Knife radiosurgery to treat the remaining 10 percent of her initial tumor.
“We are pleased with the outcomes of Shari’s treatment. Using a combination of treatments, we were able to successfully remove the mass,” said Dr. Cobb. “Each year, Shari returns for monitoring so we can look for any regrowth in the tumor or new lesions. We are pleased to report that four years post-treatment, Shari has had no signs of regrowth.”
Shari is now beginning the next chapter in her life, one filled with work, photography, and time spent with her husband, Matt.
“I have to admit, I am so thankful that I fell down those stairs that day,” said Shari. “I am also incredibly thankful for everyone who was a part of my journey, including Dr. Cobb, Dr. D’Ambrosio, Dr. Altschul, and the team at The Valley Hospital Gamma Knife Center.”
“Everyone I met provided me with attentive care and treated me as if I was a member of their family, even to this day. They made this unexpected journey a positive experience.”