Stories of Hope
Pituitary Tumor Brings Revision
Article date: March 5, 2002
It's never going to be all right again, but it's still good.
Former Reporter Focuses on Family, Friends
"I didn't really have time to think about all of this, really think about it, until we were driving to the hospital early that morning in July 1999, when the first surgery took place," said Kenneth Pins, a former reporter in the Des Moines Register's Washington, DC, bureau.
But, he said, "I never doubted the surgeon's ability to, in layman's terms, make it all right again."
Pins suspected something was wrong in February of that year. Though his primary care doctor told him he was in "remarkable" health, Pins said he was convinced it was more than "just getting older," as the doctor suggested.
He visited an eye doctor twice that month. "My eyesight in my left eye — my good eye — was suddenly developing blind spots, especially when I grew tired," he said. "My right leg now dragged, again, especially when tired."
Pins had been riding his bike "a lot" — logging about 1,500 miles each year in his daily commute to work. "It's possible that actually hid further problems," he said. "But when I went home to Iowa for a week in early July, it was obvious to my mom and my sisters that something truly had changed."
Pins said they forced him to see his doctor when he went home. This time, the doctor ordered an MRI of Pins' head. "The game was up," he said.
"As far as what they discovered I had — a pituitary adenoma (a non-cancerous brain tumor) — I'm not sure how typical it is, but mine was enormous, wrapping around my left optic nerve, pushing part of my brain up, and beginning to go down my sinus cavity," he recounted.
The pituitary gland secretes hormones that help regulate the body. While Pins' tumor wasn't cancerous, it was dangerous, and growing quickly. It had to be removed.
"From there things were pretty straightforward," Pins said. "I drove home and told my wife (about the diagnosis), we called our families, my boss, and our good friends both here and in Iowa."
"I updated our finances — I got things ready," he said. "It was all rather strange, like something odd was about to happen to someone we knew, but (had) not met, and we'd better move to get ready. I had surgery the next week."
One Surgery Down, Two to Go
Pins said his pituitary gland was obliterated by the tumor. "I'm now taking pills and (wearing) patches to take the place of what the gland did." Pins also had a month of radiation treatment.
Pins said his eyelid closed during the third surgery when the surgeon took the tumor from around the optic nerve. The surgery, which lasted 10 and one-half hours, affected Pins more than he expected. It took him a while to bounce back. But he did, returning to the Register's bureau in April 2000.
But he couldn't stay. "After 20 years, I was released…when it became clear my work was never going to regain its pre-cancer skills," he said. "I lasted until late July of 2001. So, I had a year of trying to make it back."
"It was tough on one hand, but I was trying my best," he said. "It wasn't all negative."
Family and Friendships Crucial
"My wife Kim and I, both 45, have two kids," Pins said. "Tony is now 16, a junior in high school, running track and cross country, driving, and thinking about where he'll go after high school. Maddie is now 14, in eighth grade, playing sports well and doing even better in classes."
"Between the three of them, and good friends like Jeff Miller, I've had a remarkable amount of support that has helped me to carry on, and not to worry."
Jeff came by the hospital almost every night to visit. Kim came too: "It was scary for her and she tried – which was pretty good – to not let me see that. Oh, and of course, one must not forget Mookie, the wonder dog, who's about five, we think. He doesn't bark, much — what do you say about a dog?"
While Pins has no immediate plans for the future, he keeps his days filled. He sees friends, is helping another friend with an Internet publishing venture, goes to classes, and takes piano lessons. "I always promised my mother that I would, and now I'm coming clean on it."
"It's never going to be all right again, but it's still good," he said. While he's been left with limited vision, he said has "a fuller appreciation of our time here on Earth."