COVID-19 was a blessing for this woman — it helped reveal a brain tumor

After diagnoses of COVID-19, blood clots and a brain tumor all within a few weeks, Linda Bowden now can get back to living her life.

Linda Bowden came down with COVID-19 last summer. Little did she know, the diagnosis may have saved her life.

After about a month of treatment for blood clots in her right lung, Linda, 53, passed out. That, combined with the blood clots, led to a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of her head being ordered.

She and her doctors were surprised at what they found: a brain tumor about the size of a golf ball growing behind her left eye.

“I was shocked because I hadn’t been experiencing symptoms that would have made me even think that was a possibility,” Linda said.

The tumor was big enough that it likely had been growing for some time and was starting to press on her optic nerve. The tumor could be cancer and quite certainly could lead to blindness, a stroke or worse.

Treatment close to home

Linda consulted a neurosurgeon in Louisville. Due to the location and complexity of her tumor, the surgeon recommended Norton Neuroscience Institute executive director and neurosurgeon David A. Sun. M.D., Ph.D.

That same referring surgeon also recommended Linda look at places outside of Kentucky, like the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic.

Staying close to home was important for Linda, so she met with Dr. Sun.

“He said to me, ‘Listen, I respect this tumor, but I am not afraid of it,’” she said. “I felt like going to Norton Neuroscience Institute and Norton Brownsboro Hospital with Dr. Sun would give me the greatest chance for success.”

Linda would need surgery, but it would be too risky until the blood clots in her lung cleared. That took six months — time enough for Linda to attend her daughter’s wedding and see her son graduate from veterinary school. In June 2021, it was time for the tumor to come out.

“We have a comprehensive team at our Brain Tumor Center dedicated to treating these types of tumors,” Dr. Sun said. “This was a challenging tumor because of the size and location, but we were very comfortable taking care of her because we do these kinds of cases on a regular basis.”

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Early in the morning the day after Dr. Sun removed the tumor at Norton Brownsboro Hospital, Linda said, Dr. Sun and others came to her room.

“I could feel their excitement,” Linda said. “He said he had gotten close to 99% of this tumor, which they thought was benign. We found that out later it was.”

Because he was able to remove so much of the tumor and with it being benign (not cancerous), Dr. Sun was confident in Linda’s future

“I have a very strict rule when you’re doing brain tumor, which is that it’s impossible to know if you get every little part out,” Dr. Sun said. “The great news for Linda is her tumor is benign and because we removed so much of it, the tumor is very unlikely to grow back.”

Road to recovery … and looking back to COVID

Two months removed from surgery and Linda was back at work. She continues to recover but said she feels great.

“My brain feels so renewed,” she said. “It feels like from pre-surgery that my brain has gone from seeing in black and white to an explosion of color from having that massive tumor off my brain.”

She also thinks back and realizes that while nobody wants to get COVID-19, the clot it created made it possible for her brain tumor to be discovered before it caused any lasting damage.

“Now I’m a lady of faith, so I believe it was divine intervention. But medically speaking, we wouldn’t have found this until I could have had a severe seizure, a stroke or lost my vision. So in a weird way, COVID may have saved my life,” Linda said.

Great care here at home

Linda had the option to go to other national centers for her treatment. She chose Norton Neuroscience Institute and is glad she did.

“In my mind that would be the first place I would suggest people to go to because of the experience that I’ve had,” Linda said. I feel like having Dr. Sun’s hands operating on my brain and the intensity with what he had to do brought me through alive and functioning like this.”

Linda will continue to see Dr. Sun to check on whether the tumor tries to return. In the meantime, Dr. Sun had a message for Linda.

“I don’t want her to have to worry anymore. That’s my job. I’ll watch that tumor for her. She just needs to get back to living her life again.”

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