Freshman Giselle Bauer overcomes brain tumor

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Freshman Giselle Bauer overcomes brain tumor

Freshman Giselle Bauer poses with a model of the human brain. Bauer has a brain tumor that causes seizures and has undergone four surgeries to minimize the tumor's size and effects.

Freshman Giselle Bauer poses with a model of the human brain. Bauer has a brain tumor that causes seizures and has undergone four surgeries to minimize the tumor's size and effects. "Even though some things are harder, I know I can function normally," Bauer said. "I try to forget my tumor’s there and know that I’m just the same as everyone else."

Caroline Judd

Freshman Giselle Bauer poses with a model of the human brain. Bauer has a brain tumor that causes seizures and has undergone four surgeries to minimize the tumor's size and effects. "Even though some things are harder, I know I can function normally," Bauer said. "I try to forget my tumor’s there and know that I’m just the same as everyone else."

Caroline Judd

Caroline Judd

Freshman Giselle Bauer poses with a model of the human brain. Bauer has a brain tumor that causes seizures and has undergone four surgeries to minimize the tumor's size and effects. "Even though some things are harder, I know I can function normally," Bauer said. "I try to forget my tumor’s there and know that I’m just the same as everyone else."

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As her body begins to shake, 9-year-old Giselle Bauer tastes rotten blueberries. Her head begins to ache and her face begins to twitch. She feels a flash.

Three weeks later, Bauer–now a freshman–learned this “flash” was actually a seizure.

“The flashes felt really weird,” Bauer said. “The doctors were showing me a picture of a normal brain compared to mine. They explained how I had a tumor, which was causing the seizures. At the time, I had no idea what I was in for.”

Along with having a tumor, Bauer was born with Optic nerve hypoplasia, a congenital condition that causes vision impairments.

“I had an MRI when I was a few months old because I was having problems with my eye. When they first found out I had a tumor, they looked back at that MRI and found that I had the tumor back then, but it was a lot smaller,” Bauer said.

Bauer tried medication, but it did not stop her seizures. Two months later, she underwent her first brain surgery to remove the tumor from her temporal lobe. They removed the tumor as well as her right hippocampus, amygdala, insula and uncus, but soon found out that they did not remove all of the tumor. This surgery caused Bauer to have to control her emotions and facial expressions manually.

“I [now] have to tell myself to do facial expressions,” Bauer said. “My brain doesn’t automatically smile or laugh like everyone else. I have to actually tell myself to smile. With this, I have to constantly remind myself to convey my reactions using words, just in case my facial expressions are not being received the way that I intend for it to be. Along with this, I also lost my memory.”

After the initial surgery, Bauer’s brain had to “remap” the way it functioned and reached stores memories. Because of this, storing short-term memories is difficult, which means that she has to find different ways to learn than her classmates.

I have to study more often and find special ways to remember school skills rather than using the standardized concrete method of memorizing,” Bauer said. “I also forget things easily, so sometimes I don’t remember certain tasks I need to do.”

My brain doesn’t automatically smile or laugh like everyone else. I have to actually tell myself to smile. With this, I have to constantly remind myself to convey my reactions using words, just in case my facial expressions are not being received the way that I intend for it to be.”

— freshman Giselle Bauer

Although memory is a challenge for Bauer, she found strategies to cope.

“When something specific happens that I don’t think I will remember, I write down what happened in a journal,” Bauer said. “I also like to take a lot of pictures to capture the moments.”

The doctors suggested she have an additional surgery. They drilled holes into her head and put wires and bolts through them to track where the seizures were coming from. This caused her to miss the whole first week of school.

It was harder than I thought because that is the time when you get to know the teachers and when you are first introduced to the materials and topics that the course will cover,” Bauer said. “At the same time, I wasn’t allowed to leave the room at all. The electrodes in my head were tethered to the wall in order to be able to record my brain waves. That aspect of the surgery was challenging because it was very easy to get ‘cabin fever’ very quickly.”

With the information the doctors collected, they decided that Bauer was going to have another surgery.

“The most recent surgery I had was in 2016. They drilled a quarter-sized hole into my head and used a laser to ablate the tumor,” Bauer said. “I still have some of the tumor left, but I don’t get seizures as often anymore.”

Four surgeries in, Bauer has decided to take a break because of the risk factors.

“Until there is better science and technology, I’m not going to get another surgery because there’s scar tissue along the tumor and it’s hard for them to tell the difference between them,” Bauer said. “It’s really risky. If they hit it a certain way it can paralyze me. I still have seizures, but they’re not as frequent because the tumor is smaller now.”

For safety, Bauer has an MRI once every year to make sure the tumor does not worsen.

“If they start noticing anything that doesn’t seem right, I will have to get them more often,” Bauer said. “If I can go another year without having too many problems, then I’ll start having MRI’s once every other year instead.”

Bauer has found ways to defeat her daily struggles.   

“Even though some things are harder, I know I can function normally,” Bauer said. “I try to forget my tumor’s there and know that I’m just the same as everyone else.”

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