Today, John Esmeraldino is living the life of a vibrant 24-year-old young professional, thanks to the rarely done, highly dangerous brain surgery performed by Dr. Yaron A. Moshel, MD, PhD, a neurosurgeon at Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists (ANS).
“We removed a malignant tumor – an ependymoma – inside John’s brain stem,” Dr. Moshel said. “The brain stem serves as a control center, which makes performing surgery there high risk and something most doctors shy away from. Despite the odds of not surviving the procedure, paralysis and other severe neurological issues, John insisted on having it, and I knew it was the right thing to do for him.”
Here’s John’s story:
“A healthy college junior, I drove myself to the emergency room and was admitted to the intensive care unit after experiencing headaches and neck pain for six straight days,” John said.
“John had hydrocephalus – excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain – caused by what appeared to be a benign tumor. We decided to drain the fluid and watch the tumor since surgery to the brain stem is high risk,” Dr. Moshel said.
A year later, an MRI revealed aggressive growth. Despite the inherent risk, the most proactive approach was removing the tumor so it could be analyzed and treated. The surgery, which involved navigating through the deep corridors of the brain towards the brain stem, went flawlessly. The pathology report revealed the tumor was malignant, so John embarked on 27 sessions of radiation.
“Counter to what one would think, radiation was an inspiring experience,” John said. “The same people were there at 8:30 every morning. I took the initiative to turn that time into a support session. My goal was to bring positivity and make everyone smile, laugh and push aside the doubts in their minds.”
That was the start of John’s mission to share his journey and help others.
“What I’ve learned through this experience is that faith is everything,” John said. “You cannot go to war with cancer with a loser’s mentality. You must have faith that everything is going to be ok.”
For more information about ependymoma and other brain tumors, contact the ANS Brain Tumor Center at 732-455-8225, and visit ansdocs.com.