Headache, ear infection led to discovery of brain tumor

It was August, 2022, when Lansing, Michigan, resident Annette Courtier first discovered something in her head that would change her life in ways she could never have predicted.

After experiencing a headache on the left side of her forehead and an ear infection, her primary care physician referred her to an ear, nose and throat specialist. A CT scan was done to check her ear for bone loss. Instead, the scan revealed shocking news.

“I came in with an ear infection and left with a discovery that I had a tumor,” Annette recalls.

Despite the discovery of “Timmy the Tumor,” as Annette started calling it, she felt fortunate that the tumor was benign and nonfunctional, meaning it did not cause any major symptoms. But left untreated, it could damage nearby structures, including the optic nerve.

Turning to the brain tumor specialists at Henry Ford

Annette and Dr. Asmaro smiling
Annette is all smiles after successful surgery with Dr. Asmaro to remove her non-cancerous pituitary tumor.

After learning that no one was able to remove this type of rare tumor locally in Lansing, she was referred to Henry Ford Health physicians Karam Asmaro, M.D., neurosurgeon, and his surgical partner, Jacob Eide, M.D., otolaryngologist, who specialize in skull base and pituitary tumors.

Dr. Asmaro says Annette’s tumor was invasive and had grown into the cavernous sinus, an intricate area that houses the carotid artery that feeds the brain as well as the nerves that move the eye. Pituitary surgery has been traditionally done by removing tumor next to the tumor and leaving the remainder behind because the cavernous sinus area was deemed inoperable.

But luckily for Annette, the Henry Ford doctors had new techniques and specialized expertise, using an endoscopic approach through the nose to surgically access the area to remove all the tumor cells and prevent regrowth. “The technique we are now able to perform is something that was deemed impossible just a few years ago,” Dr. Asmaro points out. “We’re fortunate to be able to bring this new approach to patients in Michigan and the Midwest,” offering an advanced option along with an improved chance of full recovery.

Thanks to the collaboration and experience at the Henry Ford Skull Base Center, Annette was able to get back to her normal life. “Annette's attitude and resilience were truly inspiring, and I'm thrilled that she's doing so well. We will continue to monitor the area to ensure the tumor does not recur, but I expect her to continue to thrive,” says Dr. Eide.

Fulfilling educational and health goals

Due to multiple setbacks in her personal life, Annette was not able to finish her college degree, but she was determined to see it through. She was back in school via an online degree program with the University of Michigan when “Timmy the Tumor” was discovered, once again threatening to derail her plans.

But Annette, who works as an escrow specialist at First National Bank of America in East Lansing, set a goal of finishing her degree by the summer of 2023. She excelled, despite living with a rare brain tumor.

“By the time I had the tumor removed in January 2023, I had made the dean’s list for the fall semester,” she says proudly. That trend continued throughout the rest of the school year. “It may have taken 35 years, but I graduated in August of 2023. Because of the superb staff and care I received, I was able to continue my studies and work full-time within days of surgery.” And she was able to get back to her studies the day after surgery and returned to work just a few days later.

Annette skull base tumor patient happy
Annette is now feeling physically and mentally stronger than ever.

Surgery inspires positive health changes

Annette says she felt fortunate that the surgery recovery was relatively easy. She decided it was time to acknowledge that she was not treating her body well and made a tremendous change in her physical and mental health.

“I rejoined my gym for what seemed to be the millionth time and started eating a healthy diet. I found a therapist to help me with a host of issues,” she says. By focusing on her recovery, tackling “Timmy the Tumor,” and committing to overall well-being, Annette has lost over 100 pounds since November 2022. She feels both physically and mentally stronger than ever. She says the tumor did not affect her weight, but it was part of the catalyst for the change.

“It sounds weird, but I will tell anyone who listens to me that school, “Timmy the Tumor,” and the excellent team at Henry Ford Health saved my life. Without those things, I am not sure where I would be today. I am forever grateful.”

For further information visit Skull Base, Pituitary and Endoscopy Center at Henry Ford Health.

48 hour appointment guarantee 

Call us at (313) 916-2241.


Cookie Consent

We use cookies to improve your website experience. By using this site, you agree to our Terms of Use. Read our Internet Privacy Statement  to learn what information we collect and how we use it.

Accept all