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Greater Tulsa Reporter

Tulsa Businesswoman Overcomes Brain Tumor

SUCCESSFUL RECOVERY: Susan Ponville, right, owner of Tea and Magnolias, a gift shop in Tulsa, with her daughter Jamie Ponville Rangel. Ponville successfully overcame a brain tumor after treatment in an Arizona hospital.

An Arizona neurosurgeon had some “serious explaining” to do for Tulsa business owner Susan Ponville. While other doctors had given her no hope, Nader Sanai, M.D., was confident when he told her that he could remove her life-threatening brain tumor.

“When you’ve been told by two surgeons the brain tumor is inoperable, and then a surgeon says he can remove the tumor, that surgeon had some serious explaining to do,” says Ponville. “And, that he did.”

One year ago, just days before her daughter’s wedding, Ponville was working in her Tulsa home décor shop, Tea & Magnolias, when she had to be rushed to a Tulsa emergency room with excruciating headaches, dizziness and numbness.

“For days I had made excuses for why I was having excruciating pain. I made all sorts of excuses like stress and sinuses. I kept to myself what was going on because with my daughter’s wedding days away, I didn’t want to worry anyone.” But the condition would not wait and Ponville learned after an MRI that she had a brain tumor.

Two brain surgeons, one in Oklahoma and one on the West Coast, told Ponville independently that the tumor was too deep to be operable. Ponville’s husband, DJ, refused to give up. He spent hours searching the internet and talking to friends in hopes of finding a treatment option. Finally, a colleague and a friend from Texas both recommended that Ponville travel to Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, one of the most acclaimed brain centers in the world. Barrow is part of St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.

At Barrow, they met with the head of the hospital’s brain tumor center, Dr. Sanai. “He was the only neurosurgeon who felt confident he could remove the tumor with minimal risk,” says Ponville. “He said he needed to remove at least 78 percent for it to be worth the surgery and was certain he could get at least that much. Post surgery, we learned Dr. Sanai removed 98 percent of the tumor!”

Sanai says Ponville’s tumor was, indeed, a difficult tumor in a difficult location. But Barrow performs more brain surgeries than any hospital in the nation and, “as a consequence, has experience with complex tumors like those of Mrs. Ponville. We knew we could remove it.”

The type of cancerous tumor Ponville had is a long-term challenge and must be treated aggressively with surgery, radiation and chemotherapeutic techniques. But Sanai remains optimistic. “Mrs. Ponville’s upbeat personality, optimism, network of family and friends, as well as her overall good general health, all contributed to her speedy recovery,” he says. “Studies have shown that optimism is associated with better outcome and, in Mrs. Ponville’s case, this is certainly no exception.”

Today, Ponville is tumor free. She continues with physical therapy, is looking forward to returning to Tea and Magnolias, is planning a forth mission trip to the Amazon and is anticipating a meeting with another famous Barrow ex-patient in late June. Rock star Bret Michaels, who was treated at Barrow for a brain hemorrhage, has invited Ponville back stage at his June 28 Tulsa concert.

“I look forward to comparing notes with Bret on his recovery,” says Ponville.

Updated 06-25-2012

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