Weekend wedding marks health triumph

For Christina Anderson, a 2013 graduate of Blue Earth Area High School, life was good.

She was living in Watertown, South Dakota, with her fiance, Brandon Jensen. Earlier this year, the couple bought a house, and they were busy making plans for their Aug. 10 wedding in Fairmont. Both had good jobs they enjoyed.

Then something really bad happened.

“I started getting a bad case of vertigo,” said Anderson, 24. “It got so bad I went to the emergency room at the hospital in Watertown.”

They treated her with a medicine and gave her some neck exercises to do.

Anderson then went back to her job as a nurse at Jenkins Living Center, a nursing home in Watertown.

“I thought I could do my whole shift,” Anderson says. “I thought just because I was dizzy was a dumb reason to stay home.”

But that evening during her shift, things got worse and she was so dizzy she started vomiting. A friend and fellow worker at the nursing home took her back to the ER.

“They gave me some medicine to stop the world from spinning,” she says. “And they ordered a CT scan. The doctor came back in after the scan and sat down beside me and told me he had some bad news. He said he found a mass in my brain.”

The date was Thursday, May 2, a day Anderson will never forget — the day she learned she had a brain tumor.

In an eight-hour surgery that soon followed at Mayo Clinic Health System-Mankato, Dr. Manish Sharma removed a tumor the size of a golf ball. Its official name is hemangioblastoma. Ten different biopsies came back negative for cancer.

Anderson has to be careful not to injure the site of the surgery as it heals and she will have to have an MRI every year for the next five years to make sure everything is still OK. But it was a relief for everyone that the surgery was a success.

Anderson had a huge group of supporters waiting for her after surgery. They had filled a waiting room. There were her parents, Mike and Marilyn Anderson of Blue Earth, and her fiance, Brandon, of course. But there were also some of the girls her parents had in foster care, and many other friends and relatives.

“I had a lot of other unexpected visitors in the hospital too,” she says. “And a lot, a lot of flowers. The support from everyone has been incredible.”

Anderson did face some effects from the surgery.

“I had minimum vision in my left eye, seeing some floating blobs, and some hearing loss in my right ear,” she says. “But it was temporary.”

Walking was an issue too, but she was determined to get the skill back as soon as she could.

“The surgeon had said being able to walk afterwards could be a problem,” she recalls. “It could take a long time to get that ability back. I told him I was getting married in August and he said I might still be using a walker then. I told him, ‘Oh no, I am NOT using a walker to go down the aisle at my wedding. No, no, no.'”

Anderson spent several days in the hospital. She walked the halls and worked hard to be able to go home.

It turned out she did not even need to do any physical or occupational therapy before leaving the hospital — they just gave her some exercises to do at her parents’ home in Blue Earth and let her go.

“I was supposed to use the walker all the time, but I didn’t want to,” she says. “So I hid it. There were many other things I couldn’t do, like drive, drink, bend down, lift anything over 15 pounds, things like that. I might have lifted some things over 15 pounds, I guess.”

She slowly added some more things into her day, like doing dishes and helping around the house.

“I am an active person,” Anderson explains. “It is hard for me to sit and do nothing.”

Her resume proves it. While in high school, starting at age 14, she worked at Cedar Inn, St. Luke’s Lutheran Care Center, ELM Homes, Double Play and, after high school, at Center for Specialty Care in Fairmont.

And besides her job as a nurse at the Watertown nursing home, she also has been a waitress at the Buffalo Wild Wings there.

“I’ve done that for the past four years,” she says. “I really like it.”

Anderson’s quick recovery has been remarkable. After a month in Blue Earth, she was given the all clear health-wise on June 18 and was ready to head home to Watertown.

Although Anderson is petite, she is pretty tough, she says. Well, maybe not totally, though.

“I’m a nurse and it doesn’t bother me to work on other people, but I have a hard time when it is happening to me,” she says. “Like when I woke up after surgery and had this huge bandage around my head. It was a little scary.”

Anderson was able to attend a benefit for her at the East Chain Activity Center, the same venue for her wedding reception this month.

“There was a way bigger turnout than I anticipated,” she says. “I sure appreciate all the support from the community.”

And, one thing is for sure. Anderson will walk down the aisle on Saturday, with a big smile on her face and not a walker in sight.


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