Interview with Regina Kozielec Straw:
Regina had symptoms of left side weakness, severe tinnitus, anxiety and depression. Her doctors kept suggesting it was hormone-related but, they couldn’t have been more wrong. In fact, it was related to a 9 cm Meningioma that had been growing for over 10 years.
Hi Regina, share your story with us?
I went through the entire Summer 2014 with symptoms of left side weakness, sounds in my head like a locomotive, severe anxiety.
My primary physician said I was suffering from depression, hormone imbalance due to menopause and put me on antidepressants.
“My primary physician said I was suffering from depression, hormone imbalance due to menopause and put me on antidepressants.”
The tablets didn’t seem to be working so I saw my obstetrician/gynaecologist, who had known me for 32 yrs. He said, “You have always been very emotional, Gina. Just sit here. I will leave the room and let you cry it out” So I sat there and cried for 20 min straight.
At the time I was working as a Registered Nurse with children with disabilities and the elderly at home. One of my patients that I took care of had Spina Bifida and I had difficulty lifting his little paralyzed legs due to my arm weakness.
My family doctor finally sent me to a Psychiatrist who doubled the dosage of my antidepressants, then switched them around still reinforcing the fact that I was having physical symptoms occurring from Stress and Hormonal factors associated with Menopause.
I continued to get worse, so the Psychiatrist finally sent me to Neurologist. I saw her on 3 September. She was very suspicious of a lesion but needed an MRI to confirm.
Although the MRI was in the same building, I had to wait for Insurance approval. That did not occur until 15 Sept. and my MRI was scheduled on the 30th September.
“A huge Meningioma, approx. 9 cm size of a small grapefruit was found pressing down on the Right side of my brain”
A huge Meningioma, approx. 9 cm size of a small grapefruit was found pressing down on the Right side of my brain. They sent me to our local hospital.
We no longer had a Neurosurgeon, so a back surgeon saw me and told me if his partner was in town, they may have “attempted” to remove it! I said no, so they sent me to Pittsburgh. The neurosurgeon who was well known for dealing with large tumours took care of me.
They did an angiogram on 1 Oct. to cut off the circulation to the tumour. Surgery date 3 October. He told me the Meningioma was more than likely in my head for 10- 20 years.
The surgery left me with paralysis of my left side for months.
I was an inpatient for 3 weeks and then outpatient for therapy for 2 weeks. Now I continue to have some left side weakness to this day, but I am doing well on a whole.
Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
- For any survivor it is not to allow outside influences to affect their healing.
- Stay away from negativity. It stops us from moving forward and is a very destructive force.
- Find your inner strength and go with that, for we all have it, we just have to find it.
- Stay focused and positive.
- When struggling, go outside, look around, look up, take a deep breath and take it all in.
- If you are tired, rest!
- Listen to your body. It tells us every day what we need.
- The very thing I learned about myself after surgery is what I am sharing with you today. Life is a gift. Treat it well.
- You have been given another day, another chance at life. Cherish it with all your being.
What do you do now in your life?
I go to the YMCA for water exercise up to 3 times a week. I also sing with our Polish Choir. I work with a group that helps raise money for animals to be spayed/neuter and medical needs.
“Multitasking is difficult for me. I get overwhelmed in noisy environments.”
I have not been able to return to my Nursing career, that I had for 34 years prior to my surgery. Multitasking is difficult for me. I get overwhelmed in noisy environments. I keep a schedule of daily tasks, for example, laundry Monday or Tuesday. Cleaning the house at the end of the week.
I have 3 sons. The 2 oldest are out on their own. My youngest is 21, still lives with me, as he is a full-time Student at the University. He helps me a lot. I have a lot of pets who are ” Seniors”. My dog, Grace, is almost 14, never leaves my side. I also have a 14-year-old cat who stays near me, a 22 year old water turtle, and another cat- only 5.
I keep my mind active by communicating both verbally and online. I have become a “Nurse Consultant” for my friends and family, by helping with any of their health questions.
“I have become a “Nurse Consultant” for my friends and family, by helping with any of their health questions.”
I try to remain positive and share spiritual inspirational messages and a lot of animal pictures to my friends and family, especially those who suffer from depression and health issues.
I keep a strong faith in God and attribute my successful journey to the many prayers raised up both for me and by me. This is what motivates me to get up every morning and start a new day.
Who is your personal hero or are your heroes?
My hero would have to be my dad, who passed suddenly and unexpectedly at age 68. He was a labourer, but loved Astronomy as a hobby.
He taught my siblings and I to “keep looking up”. He felt that we all walk around looking at life at eye level and do not lookup. He was a nature lover. I know my love of Nature comes from him.
All who have overcome adversities in their lives have become my heroes as well.
What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve ever done?
The most interesting thing I have ever done was give birth to my 3 sons, who have become my lifeline.
They are all very different, but my pride is the same in each of them. One of my biggest worries after surgery was how to get them through the rest of their days. I had 3 sons 21 and under, 2 were still in high school. Other than outside family and friends, I was alone and kept my faith through it all.
They are also very big motivating factors in my life.
Regina, thank you so much for sharing your Meningioma story and for showing that even 5 years after diagnosis, brain tumours can still have an effect on a person. But, you take every day as a blessing.