Stephanie Cole was getting ready to start as a student in an ultrasound program in 2018 when she began suffering from headaches and dizziness.
Doctors found a small, non-cancerous tumor, Acoustic Neuroma, and gave her two options: Watch and wait, or go under the knife.
Cole, now 36, of Forked River, decided to watch and wait.
The mom of three powered through her symptoms up until graduation. But by the time Cole landed her dream job in April 2021, her tumor had tripled in size.
Cole under went surgery to have it removed last month and is readjusting to a new normal.
While a GoFundMe page has been launched to help Cole and her family with the financial burden, she faces a long road to recovery.
"The biggest challenge right now is having right-side facial weakness," said Cole, who left NYU Hospital after surgery last week.
"My left eye isn’t closing and I’m not producing any fluids on the right side -- no tears no nasal mucus. My brain isn’t focusing like it use to. I feel like I’m lagging and my walking is more life shuffling my feet just to move."
Cole noted that if she hadn't gone to her doctors when she did, things could've been much worse.
"If a doctor didn’t listen to me and take me seriously I would have never found out I had a brain tumor," she wrote, noting initial symptoms of bad headaches and vertigo.
"Acoustic neuroma isn't talked about much in the brain tumor world but it affects many people and change people life’s forever."
Now that surgery is in the past, Cole is simply working on readjusting to her "new normal."
The most challenging part, she says, is not being able to be the hands-on mom she used to be for her kids, ages 13, 11 and 9.
"I just want to get back to my normal life with my kids and be able to take them to the skate park," she said, "and maybe a family vacation for spring break if my brain is back to normal by then. "
While Cole certainly has every reason to get down on life, she tries to stay positive.
"One message I would tell people is to always see the good in a situation," she told Daily Voice. "Don’t ask yourself, 'Why is this happening to me?'
"Ask yourself 'What is this trying to teach me learn from it and make yourself a better person.'"
For Cole, the answer is simple: "Don’t take a single minute for grated it can be gone tomorrow. I’m happy I’m home with my kids at the end of the day they are all that matters to me. I live for them."
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