• Neurology Patient Stories

    Teamwork helps nurse find relief from rare tumor

Wendy CookWendy Cook was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis as a child, which has caused many small tumors to grow on various nerves throughout her life. Only one required surgery and none caused her significant pain.

But that changed when she began experiencing pain in her right buttock. Eventually, the pain became so intense that she scheduled an appointment with her hometown doctor.

When her doctor showed Cook, a nurse, her MRI results, she broke down in tears. What she had assumed was a small tumor was massive, located along her sciatic nerve and extending into her pelvis and rectum. Given the extent of the tumor, Cook's doctor recommended she seek treatment at a larger medical facility. She chose Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Mayo doctors used high-resolution MRI to determine that Cook had a rare dumbbell-shaped tumor that extended on both sides of the sciatic notch, where the sciatic nerve passes through the hipbone. The location is difficult to reach and operate on without causing damage to the sciatic nerve, which controls leg movement.

In an eight-hour operation, one surgeon entered from Cook's abdomen and one from her buttocks, meeting in the middle to delicately separate the tumor from the nerve. They removed the entire tumor without damaging the nerve.

Since the surgery, Cook has remained symptom-free. In addition, repeat MRI exams show no tumor recurrence where the tumor was removed.

Cook says she's thrilled to be free of the pain the tumor was causing, and to be able to keep helping people as a nurse and focus on the other happy aspects of her life, including her daughter.

She now counts Mayo Clinic as her home away from home, a place where she's made friends, including the "honest and caring" doctors she trusts to continue to watch out for her health.