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Johns Hopkins Health - Coming Out Ahead

Spring 2010
Issue No. 8

Coming Out Ahead

Date: April 23, 2010


Marisa Eickenhorst was shocked by a brain tumor diagnosis but refused to let it bring her down

It was the lower-back pain, then the severe headaches that were keeping me up at night. I thought for sure I had a pinched nerve. I put it off for a while, but when I finally went to the doctor’s office, they X-rayed my back and told me I was fine.

The only thing I really worried about at that point was getting some sleep. Never in my wildest thoughts did I imagine anything close to cancer. That’s what happened, though. The pain never did go away, and I eventually went to see a neurologist.

That changed my world. Turns out I had a brain tumor—an astrocytoma. I was referred immediately to Johns Hopkins and neurosurgeon Alessandro Olivi, M.D. It was complicated because of how large and how deeply in my brain the tumor was. I was dumbfounded, scared and in complete denial. All my life, I’ve been the rock of my family. Now it was my turn to depend on others.

Dr. Olivi and his team were class acts—gentle, caring, thorough and prepared. They became a part of my family and together turned what could’ve been a horrible experience into a beautiful one.

The idea of brain surgery was overwhelming, but it was completely successful. I was back home in six days, and my recovery was phenomenal. Five weeks after surgery I walked the entire Race for Hope 5K in Washington, D.C.

I think so much of this success was about how I was treated and cared for at Johns Hopkins—it’s all genuine, all the time.

Tricky Tumor

  • Marisa Eickenhorst’s tumor was a pilocystic astrocytoma, which is usually diagnosed in children between ages 7 and 16.
  • Fortunately, her tumor was benign, or noncancerous, but even benign tumors can be life-threatening, depending on where they’re located.
  • There are more than 100 types of brain tumors; some occur more commonly in kids, while others happen more in adults.

Watch and listen to Marisa Eickenhorst tell her story at For more information about brain conditions, visit Or, call 877-546-1872 for appointments or consultations.

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