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From headaches to seizures: How a teen discovered an orange-sized tumor in her brain

Posted at 10:11 PM, Feb 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-26 06:14:58-05

TAMPA, Fla. —When you look at the CT scan for Anjolie De La Rosa, it is hard to believe a tumor the size of an orange was growing smack dab in the middle of both halves of her brain.

“When it takes up that much room it’s pressing against some very important structures,” Dr. Abilash Haridas, the Chief of Pediatric Neurosurgery at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, said. “The pressure inside the head increases to a point where you start having headaches. You have a seizure, and you could potentially die from something like this if it’s not detected.”

A few weeks after celebrating her 15th birthday, Anjolie De La Rosa suffered a massive seizure right in front of her mom.

"I tried to speak, and I tried to move but I couldn’t. It was like I was frozen,” Anjolie De La Rosa said.

The seizure lasted about two minutes. At first, Anjolie’s mom thought she was playing around because “she’s a bit of a jokester,” Nathalia De La Rosa, Anjolie’s mom said.

"When I realized she wasn’t moving and I saw her eyes rolled to the side, I was like 'what is going on,'” Nathalia De La Rosa said.

For nearly a year, Anjolie said she had severe headaches. The family went to a doctor but was told the headaches were caused by tension. Anjolie was prescribed medicine, but the problems never went away.

“It would hurt to keep my head straight,” Anjolie said. “I used to go to school with my head tilted to the side.”

When the family finally got the diagnosis that Anjolie had a tumor growing in between her frontal lobes, they couldn’t believe it.

"Why my daughter? That’s the first thing that came to my head. Why did this have to happen?” Giovanni De La Rosa, Anjolie’s dad, told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska. “I was in complete shock. I had a million things going on in my head.”

It took two surgeries totaling more than 14 hours to remove the entire tumor. Doctors were meticulously cutting out the foreign object encased in her brain.

“If we inured that vessel during surgery she would end up with a major stroke. That would be devastating,” Haridas said. “We spent many many hours in this 1-centimeter area to make sure we got every piece of the tumor out.”

The family told us the hardest part was having to go back into the second surgery to remove the rest of it.

“I broke down, and I cried,” Giovanni De La Rosa said. “I didn’t know how to go back in there and tell my daughter ‘hey, honey they are going to have to go back in and take the rest of it out.’”

Anjolie has a metal plate and scar on her head. Both are barely visible unless she pulls her hair back. Anjolie’s parents said prayers and faith, along with skilled doctors and nurses saved their daughter’s life.

“I knew she was in good hands from the beginning. They were just really good about keeping us informed,” Nathalia De La Rosa said. “You could tell he (Dr. Haridas) has his heart in what he does.”

The tumor was a non-cancerous meningioma. Anjolie made a full recovery.