A South Dakota woman said she refused to let a brain tumor and surgery prevent her from walking down the aisle.
For about a year, Christina Anderson, 24, from Watertown, was experiencing severe dizzy spells after her December 2017 engagement to Brandon Jensen.
One day in May, while she was in the midst of planning her wedding, the room began spinning. Anderson started vomiting and couldn’t walk straight.
She went to a local hospital and underwent a CT scan. Doctors diagnosed her with a benign tumor about the size of a golf ball that was pressing on the part of her brain that affected balance.
Anderson was determined, however, to both undergo surgery and make sure she walked down the aisle herself on her wedding day.
After just a few months of therapy and resolute refusal of the walker, Anderson made her way – unassisted – to the alter to marry Brandon Jensen on August 10.
Christina Anderson, 24, from Watertown, South Dakota, was experiencing dizzy spells for about a year. Pictured: Anderson, left, and Brandon Jensen on their wedding day
After one day in May when Anderson experience a particularly bad spell, she rushed herself to a local hospital. She was diagnosed with a hemangioblastoma, a benign tumor that affects balance and coordination. Pictured: Anderson before surgery, left, and after surgery, right
Anderson said that when she first started experiencing her dizzy spells, she thought it was because her blood sugar was low.
‘I went into the ER every time I passed out,’ she told DailyMail.com. ‘I did diabetic tests and they always came back negative.’
No MRIs or CT scans were ever performed until that day in May when she said she experienced vertigo-like dizziness.
‘It took a really, really long time for the doctor to come in,’ she said.
‘An unusually long amount of time and I thought: “Uh, something not right and the doctor finally came in and said: “Yeah, so we found a mass in your brain.”‘
Anderson was diagnosed with a hemangioblastoma, a benign tumor that can occur in the brain, spinal cord or behind the eye.
The tumors account for about two percent of all brain tumors, according to the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences.
Symptoms include headache, lack of coordination, loss of balance, nausea and vomiting.
Scientists don’t know what causes hemangioblastomas, but believe it may be triggered by a mix of genetic and environmental factors.
Typically, surgery is the standard course of treatment. If a tumor can’t be completely surgically removed, patients also undergo radiation treatment.
If left untreated, the mass can permanently damage nerves in the brain, leading to a permanent loss of balance.
The tumor, located behind Anderson’s right ear, measured two inches in diameter and was compressing her brain stem, which controls breathing, swallowing, heart rate and blood pressure.
Anderson underwent an eight-hour surgery five days after she was diagnosed. She quickly began working on regaining her balance so she didn’t have to walk down the aisle with a walker. Pictured: Anderson’s surgery scar, left, and a scan of her tumor, right
On August 10, wearing bedazzled Crocs, she walked down the aisle herself and married Brandon Jensen. Pictured: Anderson, left, and Jensen on their wedding day
She said that her father drove her to the Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato, Minnesota, where doctors told her she needed surgery immediately.
Anderson was determined, despite facing surgery, to keep the scheduled date of her upcoming wedding, which was three months away, because everything had already been paid for.
She asked Dr Manish Sharma, her neurosurgeon at Mayo Clinic Health System, if she would have to cut off any hair before surgery – and he told her that she did.
‘The only thing going through my mind was I didn’t want them to chop my hair off,’ Anderson said.
On May 7, five days after she was diagnosed, Anderson underwent an eight-hour surgery.
Anderson’s medical team began focusing on regaining her balance, and the 24-year-old was determined to not use the walker on her wedding day.
‘I would crawl down the aisle rather than use the walker,’ Anderson said. ‘They sent me home with it and I kept hiding it. I hid in the bathroom, slid it in the spare room nobody looks in.’
On August 10, she walked down the aisle in bedazzled Crocs to help with her balance, and a clever hairdo and a hairpiece to mask the surgery scar.
Crocs recently contacted Anderson and told her that they want to pay for Crocs for the entire bridal party.