Cedars-Sinai Blog

Brain Tumor Patient Rachel Brandt Tackles the NYC Marathon

Brain tumor survivor and Cedars-Sinai patient Rachel Brandt

Brain tumor survivor Rachel Brandt. Photo courtesy of Rachel Brandt.

Rachel Brandt was a healthy 27-year-old who was planning her wedding when she had a strange feeling a little over a year ago.

Her head was throbbing—unusual for Rachel, who never got headaches. When the pain carried over to the next day, she knew something was wrong.

At the insistence of her fiancé, Martin, she went to the emergency room. Doctors ran test after test and couldn't pinpoint the cause of the headache. Frustrated and ready to go home, Rachel agreed to one last test.

"Dr. Robin Polansky was there that night, and she pressed me to stay and run one more test," says Rachel. "Thank god that she did that because she was able to find the source."

The test revealed she had a blood clot in her brain and a hemorrhaging pituitary tumor.

"The brain tumor was so out of my control but I overcame it, and now I'm taking on this new scary and hard challenge by my own choice."

"I'm so lucky. I could have gone to any hospital in the world, but I happened to go to Cedars-Sinai—and I couldn’t be more grateful I made that choice," says Rachel. "They were able to figure out the puzzle."

The next day, Rachel was admitted to the neurosurgical ICU and prepared for brain surgery. Over the next 48 hours, her condition deteriorated rapidly. She started losing vision and her eyes started swelling shut.

Rachel's surgeon, Dr. Adam Mamelak, co-director of the Pituitary Center, scheduled her procedure for the following week. During surgery, which was performed endoscopically through her nose, the tumor was removed and determined to be benign.

"After the surgery, it was surreal to look in the mirror and look fine," Rachel says. "I just had this big life moment and I looked completely normal, but I was still recovering from a major surgery."

Rachel leaving the hospital after her surgery to remove a brain tumor. Photo courtesy of Rachel Brandt.

During her recovery, Rachel wanted to turn her scary experience into a positive life moment. For her, that meant training for her first marathon.

"I'm really excited to take on this challenge of running the New York City Marathon in November," says Rachel. "The brain tumor was so out of my control but I overcame it, and now I'm taking on this new scary and hard challenge by my own choice."

Rachel is running the marathon on behalf of the Brain Tumor Foundation as a way to give back and help inspire others facing brain tumors.

"For me, it's about putting good back into the world," says Rachel. "I was blown away by the community that helped me through this, and I want to pay it forward."