Being 6-foot-5 and towering over most other people is a dream for many Americans. For ABR Software Developer Casey Baker, it was a warning sign.
Baker grew an unlikely four inches between ages 21 and 28. He also experienced chronic fatigue and decreased energy, prompting him to seek a medical opinion in January 2016.
What he discovered through tests and bloodwork was that he had a 4-centimeter pituitary macroadenoma (brain tumor). While further tests revealed that the tumor was noncancerous, Baker was diagnosed with acromegaly in June 2016. Acromegaly is a condition in which the pituitary gland produces too much growth hormone, explaining his growth spurt.
“One symptom of acromegaly is that I never stopped growing after high school,” Baker said. “I’ve always been much taller than all of my family.”
Since Baker’s tumor was protruding into his optic chiasm, his doctors were worried that he could go blind if the tumor grew or shifted or that it could compress his internal carotid artery. Treatment involved transsphenoidal surgery (through his nose) to remove as much of the tumor as possible at Southern Hills Hospital in his hometown of Las Vegas. He spent nearly two weeks in ICU after surgery.
A follow-up scan six months later revealed that the surgery wasn’t successful; the tumor had grown back to its original size.
“My neurosurgeon said, ‘It looks like I was never there,’ ” Baker said.
He was referred to 21st Century Oncology for radiation therapy with Susan Reisinger, MD. Dr. Reisinger said radiation was necessary to keep the tumor from growing and damaging Baker’s internal carotid artery or causing blindness.
After Dr. Reisinger explained the risks, Baker underwent radiation therapy for a couple of months, finishing in June 2017. After treatment, he was down to a rail-thin 138 pounds and his energy was lagging. But he was on the road to recovery.
A year later, he was diagnosed with Addison’s disease and hypothyroidism caused by the radiation therapy. Fortunately, he can control those issues through medication.
“Two years and a pandemic later, I’m at a healthy weight and regularly able to work out, while focusing on improving my overall health in ways I could not before,” Baker said. “My tumor has shrunk from 4 to 1.7 centimeters from the radiation therapy.”
Once surgery was behind him and his health returned, Baker found his ABR job last September. After the ups and downs of surgery and radiation therapy, the ABR was a fitting place to restart his life.
“While it seems like my tumor and radiation days are behind me, it feels nice to continue my journey with an organization that supports medical professionals that help people like me,” he said.