Patient Stories: Know Yourself

Read how one patient made his own luck by being in tune with his body -- and being persistent with doctors.

Medically reviewed in July 2022

Nathan R. was 55 when he began to notice that his hearing wasn't quite right and that his equilibrium was off. He noticed dizziness and vertigo when he stood up suddenly. He kept having the sensation that he was going to faint, particularly whenever he did anything energetic. He went to one doctor after another. The doctors ran him through all the tests they thought appropriate, but they couldn't find anything wrong.

More Testing
Just because they couldn't find anything didn't mean that something wasn't wrong. Nathan, who was feeling worse and worse, kept persisting. After going to several specialized clinics and seven different doctors, Nathan finally went to a doctor who took another MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan, a kind of three-dimensional x-ray, of Nathan's brain. At first, the doctor, just like all the others, said that he couldn't find anything wrong.

Persistence Pays
Nathan was so insistent that something was wrong that the doctor went back over the images again, showing Nathan exactly what doctors look for when reading an MRI. Explaining to him how to read the images, pointing to the different lobes of the brain pictures on the screen, the doctor began to study the images very carefully. Nathan asked lots of questions. Suddenly, the doctor spotted it: a small bump on a nerve, a telltale tumor.

Normally, brain tumors aren't detected until they are well over 1 centimeter; Nathan's was one-third that size. Two days later, Nathan went into surgery.

Happy Ending
The tumor that was removed proved to be fast-growing -- and cancerous. It might well have killed Nathan in a matter of months had it not been discovered, but because it was discovered early enough, Nathan suffered virtually no consequences. After a few weeks of recovery, he went right back to life as usual.

The only side effect of the surgery was some hearing loss. It's not much, considering the danger he had barely escaped.

Nathan was saved by his own persistence and savvy.

Question: If something small and vague began to affect you and lasted several weeks, would you see a doctor to find out what was wrong? Or would you hope that it would go away by itself, or just live with it?

The next time you notice something amiss, we hope you will make your own luck and get an appointment with your doctor as soon as you can.

Excerpted from RealAge: Are You As Young As You Can Be? by Michael F. Roizen, MD

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