Ana Kristof had experienced severe pain for more than 20 years of her life after being diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia. Responsible for transferring sensations from the face to the brain, Ana’s trigeminal nerve was being compressed by an artery, leading to what many consider “the worst pain known to man.” The condition led to relentless electric shock-like feelings across her face that would come without warning, lasting for several seconds at a time.
After undergoing two brain surgeries, the pain had not subsided. As a self-proclaimed “prisoner in her own home,” the disorder stopped her from having the life she wanted, down to simple freedoms like cleaning the house or going to the grocery store.
For comfort, she looked to her son. Often putting his own life on hold to be her caretaker, he continuously provided the level of comfort she needed to continue her journey for a cure. Ana’s condition was so severe that some doctors feared there was nothing that could be done to fully resolve the pain.
Ana was on the verge of losing hope when her neurologist recommended Dr. Renee Levine, a radiation oncologist at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center, a facility close to home and equipped with the Gamma Knife Icon.
“Dr. Levine is truly so empathetic and cares about her patients so much. When I was worried, she always reminded me that she was just a phone call away,” Ana says.
Dr. Levine took on Ana’s case, consulting with other doctors and presenting it at tumor conferences across the nation, to ensure the finest care was provided throughout the process.
With the help and support of Dr. Levine and the Cancer Center team, Ana successfully had treatment in October 2016. Unlike traditional surgery, Gamma Knife Icon doesn’t require cutting or incisions and the precise radiation ensures healthy brain tissue is unaffected by the treatment. Pain relief can occur immediately or over a period of weeks – even for more severe cases such as Ana’s.
Since the procedure, Ana’s life has been transformed. With the success of the Gamma Knife Icon treatment, Ana has achieved more than she ever thought possible. She enjoys time with her grandchildren and solo camping trips outdoors – pieces of her life that she never thought she could get back.
“It’s been like going from total darkness to light,” she shared. “I would tell anyone to try this treatment. Hope is out there. This has changed my life, and today I feel empowered.”