A long road to go before recovery

— By DAVID A. WILSON

Democrat Staff

A trip to a doctor for a virus infection led to discovery of a much worse problem for Eden Mahoney Mills, a 2006 graduate of California High School.

According to Eden, who presently lives in Virginia Beach, Va., she went to a doctor one day because of a virus infection. It was apparently an unusual virus, requiring testing to determine what medication might be possible.

The test results showed a problem unrelated to the virus — a six centimeter tumor in her throat. The tumor was wrapped around her vocal chords, the nerves to her face, and the left carotid artery.

She underwent surgery, and in many respects it could be said to have gone very well. The procedure was anticipated to take 22 hours, but in a little over half that time the tumor was successfully removed.

Even though the surgery went well, even successful surgery can have a downside. In Eden's case, the immediate downside was that she was left without a voice, no longer able to swallow, nerve damage to her face and arm and half of her tongue numb, also because of nerve damage from the surgery.

While the tumor was thought to be benign, the physicians estimated that without the surgery, the rapid rate of growth would have killed her in five years.

After 12 days in the hospital—two days before her release—the doctor discovered another problem.

They had found cancer in lymph nodes in her neck. While the thinking was that this probably explained why the tumor was growing so fast, more testing determined the tumor was not benign. It was Stage 4 Malignant Paraganglioma, a very rare and very aggressive cancer.

An effort was made to hold off radiation treatments so that as much healing as possible could take place after the surgery. But time ran out and the radiation treatments had to start.

After the treatments started, the pain from the nerve damage put her back in the hospital for a couple of days, just so the pain could be controlled.

Eden's primary physician is Dr. Nelson, whom Eden says is an amazing doctor who treats her with the best of care. She calls the doctor who does her radiation therapy “McDreamy.”

Eden reports another setback, due malfunctioning of the radiation machine.

The few days it was not functioning will prolong the original plan of radiation treatment every day during the week for seven weeks.

During a recent checkup, she was found to have pneumonia. This was a real problem because she was unable to swallow without choking. Emergency surgery was done to enable her to open her mouth because of the choking problem.

She had only been able to open her mouth about a centimeter after the tumor was removed. The surgery was successful to a point and she does have partial control over her vocal chords giving her a voice part of the time.

After radiation and possible chemotherapy, Eden will still have a long bout of surgeries ahead to allow her to swallow, repair nerves to her face and more. She will be unable to return to work until March of 2014 at the earliest.

A recent benefit held at the Eagles Club in California brought in $11,000. These funds will help her travel to and from radiation and physical therapy. With an hour and a half total drive, plus another 30 minutes to drive home four days a week, the costs add up. This extra money ensures she has a place to stay and helps her take care of her son Christian.

Eden hopes for the best, but plans for the worst.

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