It was New Year’s Eve, and Cortlandt, New York, resident Alessandra Savo was eager to ring in 2016. It had been an eventful year: She gave birth to her first child, Giuseppe, and from the outside everything seemed perfect.
But shortly after giving birth, Alessandra knew something was not right. She had lost interest in so many of the things that she used to love. Cooking and socializing went by the wayside, and even keeping up with hygiene and housework was too much to handle.
“Simply put, it was my darkest hour,” she says. “I was almost on the outside of myself looking in, and I just remember being scared and feeling that something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was and I didn’t know how to fix it.”
Since she had recently had a baby, many people thought that Alessandra was suffering from postpartum depression. But she knew deep down that wasn’t the case. “I didn’t feel sad. I just knew something wasn’t right, and Joe, my husband, felt the same,” she says. “He was very convinced that this wasn’t depression, this was something more.”
At some point, Alessandra began to present physical signs that something was wrong as well. She suffered from unbearable headaches that medication could not relieve, and she was vomiting almost daily. She was not eating or sleeping, and she would even faint. After weeks of fainting spells, while she was taking a shower before getting ready to ring in 2016, Joe heard a noise from down the hall. Alessandra had fainted in the shower.
More certain than ever that this was not just postpartum symptoms, Joe took Alessandra to the emergency department at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital. It was there that doctors did a CT scan and discovered the cause of all of Alessandra’s recent suffering.
Alessandra was diagnosed with meningioma, a slow-growing tumor that forms from the meninges, the membranous layers surrounding the brain and spinal cord. An estimated 371 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with atypical and anaplastic meningioma each year, according to data from the National Cancer Institute.
“I felt immense relief,” she said of the diagnosis. “I wasn’t scared or sad or nervous. I basically said ‘get this thing out of me.’”
After a few days at the hospital, Alessandra underwent a craniotomy to remove the meningioma with a neurosurgery team at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center led by Dr. Theodore Schwartz, with anesthesiologist Dr. Peter Goldstein. “The entire team was amazing,” she says.