Family is everything to Natalia Eilers. This happy-go-lucky, filled with laughter, effervescent, stay at home mom loves nurturing and taking care of her two young daughters, 4 and 10 years old. She and her husband were looking forward to expanding their family when facial pain brought it to a screeching halt.
Here’s her story in her words.
Natalia says, “I really wanted to have another baby. We were hoping for a boy, but I started having numbness in my lip. At first, I thought it was some sort of allergy but then I started having excruciating facial shocks, 15-to-20 a day that would last about 20 seconds and bring me to my knees. I’d drop to the floor and cry. It was so awful for me, but I worried most about my daughters seeing me in such pain, I wasn’t myself anymore and it scared them. It was the worst pain you could ever have.”
“I was diagnosed with Trigeminal Neuralgia and my neurologist put me on an anti-seizure medication which helps with nerve problems. It did help in the beginning, but the pain got worse, so I was given another medication which made me tired, I was in bed all the time, had to be in a dark room when I had a flare up. I was depressed, losing my hair, always hungry and gained 20 pounds. It changed everything and affected my whole family. It was terrible for my daughters to see me like that, having attacks all the time. They suffered a lot, were very sad and scared.”
“After 8 months on medication I realized I couldn’t live like this anymore. I never knew when I was going to have an attack. A breeze across my face could set it off, so I started doing my own research and watched videos on YouTube to find different options.”
“I saw the surgery for Trigeminal Neuralgia and didn’t want to go through all that cutting and trauma. Luckily, I came across CyberKnife Radiation Therapy, a noninvasive way to treat it and it sounded so amazing, so I started looking for where it’s done in South Florida and discovered the CyberKnife Center of Miami.”
“I asked my neurologist about CyberKnife and all she said is, CyberKnife is for cancer. When I explained to her it can treat nerve disorders like Trigeminal Neuralgia she said, “I don’t think you’re there yet just keep taking the meds.”
“I wasn’t going to do that, so I called CyberKnife Miami and talked to Mario Tobon, one of their Radiation Therapists. I was so nervous, but he said this is definitely something I could try, he explained everything to me so clearly about how it works, potential side effects but that they’ve had great success with CyberKnife for Trigeminal Neuralgia. It sounded too good to be true, but I knew the pills would destroy me and I had to do something.”
“I was very nervous, however after talking to Mario at great length he calmed me down and convinced me about the advantages and benefits of CyberKnife. I told my family about it, my husband, mom, dad and the girls and we were all in from the start. After all what did I have to lose except a life filled with pain. They are all so helpful at CyberKnife Miami. From start to finish they worked with me and squeezed me in while my mom was here to help with the kids. They did it all and made everything come together so easily, which is incredible.”
“I met with Dr. Mark Pomper, he’s the chief radiation oncologist and medical director at the center. He was amazing. He gave me a full medical exam and looked at all my scans. The team is so thorough. He explained everything to me in such a simple way. He and everyone there gave me such confidence. Dr. Pomper kept telling me, don’t be so nervous. He said it will probably require only one radiation treatment session, but if you need more, Mario and I will be here for you. He talks in such a nice way.”
“The day of the treatment I was still a little scared. I went with my husband. They took us into the CyberKnife room and explained exactly how it would go. The process was quick. It took about 45 minutes from the time I laid down on the CyberKnife table and got up. The machine moving around me made me a little nervous at first, but I didn’t feel a thing and almost fell asleep. Afterwards I had a little headache, took a Tylenol and a nap, woke up and I was fine. It was amazing.”
Dr. Pomper says, “Most often we can help patients like Natalia and are happy we were able to help her given the desperate situation she was in. She presented with a difficult case and did not have many options. Medications can control the pain but usually only for a while and they were not helping her much. She did not want to do surgery and with good reason. Brain surgery is always very risky, it can worsen the problem and the pain can come back. CyberKnife is very effective. By hitting the trigeminal nerve with pin-point targeted radiation, it decreases the sensitivity of the nerve fibers which cause the pain but doesn’t damage the surrounding tissues. CyberKnife for Trigeminal Neuralgia only takes one treatment. The time it takes for pain relief varies but usually happens within a week.”
“Natalia says, I am so thankful to Dr. Pomper and CyberKnife Miami. At first after the treatment, I was afraid to sneeze or cough fearing it would set off another pain attack like usual, but it didn’t. I did feel a bit more nerve pain in my face right after the treatment, but after a few weeks I was off the pain medication, and I felt nothing. It took me a month to stop being so cautious and realize the pain was not coming back.”
“I’m so grateful, I have my energy and my life back. Before I couldn’t make plans, I was afraid of waking up because I didn’t know what the day would bring. I hated going outside because the wind brushing across my face could start an attack. Now I can exercise and do everything I did before. Living in pain makes you appreciate living with no pain and you no longer take the simple things in life for granted.”
“My girls are so happy again. The day I got the treatment my oldest daughter kept saying, mommy did it work, did it work? My pain was so hard on them. I went from being a happy, laughing person to living in constant pain. To help them understand we created a game and named the attacks. If it was a Thor attack, they knew it was really strong pain. If it was a Spider Man attack it wasn’t as strong.”
“I tell everyone I can about CyberKnife. I joined different facial pain groups on Facebook and Instagram. The community is very big, we share our stories and do live talks with doctors answering questions.”
“People mistakenly think Trigeminal Neuralgia only affects older people, but I know people who’ve had facial pain since adolescence. This can happen to anyone at any age for many different reasons and unknown reasons, like me. We are called the Trigeminal Neuralgia Warriors.”
“My best advice to anyone who will listen is, you don’t have to live in pain, take pills for the rest of your life or go through risky, invasive surgery. Do your research and check out CyberKnife. It works. If your doctors aren’t helping you, are giving you only one option and put CyberKnife down or don’t know about it, switch doctors. Don’t be afraid. Go to a CyberKnife expert. I’m so happy I did, and more people need to know about CyberKnife. I talk to so many people in the Trigem community. They know about the surgery and pills but not about CyberKnife and that has to change.”
“My pain started in July of 2020 and ended when I got CyberKnife treatment in April of 2021. Now that I’m off medication and pain free, we can try to have another baby and we are trying, (Natalia laughs) CyberKnife gave me that gift and so much more. It gave me my life back.”
CyberKnife Miami has treated thousands of patients since opening in 2003.
Trigeminal Neuralgia is one of the problems we treat often. Because we are the most experienced CyberKnife team in Miami, we can handle the most difficult and complicated cases.
Call us at 305-279-2900 to find out if we can help you or a loved one and go to our website now to learn more or schedule a consultation.