Gilbert's Retirement Fund

For: Courtney
Organizer: Family and Friends
of $30,000 goal
23% Complete
Raised by 83 donors
This fundraiser is closed. Thank you for your support!

The Story

For updates on Courtney's journey, be sure to LIKE her page at

For the past several years, Courtney's health has slowly but surely deteriorated.  At first it was trouble sleeping.  Then the pain and weakness on the left side of her body began.  Issues with her vision being blurred and doubled followed, and she is now almost completely blind in her left eye.  The headaches were always there, but have evolved into constant, pulsating migraines so severe they leave her unable to get out of bed on the really bad days.  On the good days, she can still manage to get through an 8 hour work day, but that's about all she is capable of.  Her memory, especially short term, has deteriorated - and she suffers from other cognitive defecits as well.   

She has been to many doctors over the years trying to find answers.  In January 2013, an MRI was finally ordered to try to find the cause of her progressively worsening symptoms.  She had already undergone numerous tests to rule out a vitamin deficiency, Lyme Disease, Lupus, Myasthenia Gravis, Multiple Sclerosis, and a host of other disorders and diseases.  All tests were coming back normal and Courtney was beginning to feel that she'd never get to the bottom of what was wrong.

As it turns out, the problem is "all in her head"...literally!  The MRI revealed a 1.7 centimeter tumor in the middle of her brain, right on top of her pineal gland.  Courtney named it Gilbert due to its size and uncanny resemblance to a grape.  Doctors do not believe Gilbert is mailgnant, but the only way to know for sure is to remove it and send it off for biopsy.  The tumor is compressing vital structures within her brain (including her optic nerve, which is what allows you to see).  Eventually, as it gets bigger, Courtney could develop hydrocephalus (a backup of fluid in the brain), a damaging and potentially life-threatening condition.

Because Gilbert is located so deep inside Courtney's brain, she was told by surgeons in Virginia that operating was too dangerous given that the mass is not thought to be cancerous (actually, this is one of the most dangerous brain surgeries there is!), and that she should learn to live with the symptoms as best as possible until the tumor causes hydrocephalus, and to just keep getting MRI's to measure its growth.  Basically, they blew her off.  Surgery would require a very large portion of her skull to be removed and cause a lot of trauma to healthy brain tissue just to get to the mass, possibly creating more problems than it would solve.  Surgeons refer to this nine hour operation as an "open craniotomy" and will not subject someone to it unless it is absolutely necessary to save a life because it is extremely invasive and carries a high risk of complications or even death.

Thankfully, Courtney located a surgeon in Los Angeles who is performing revolutionary minimally invasive surgery on pineal tumors.  His name is Dr. Shahinian.  His method to operate on tumors in this area of the brain is to remove only a dime-sized portion of skull and follow the brain's natural pathways to get to the tumor to remove it.  This minimizes the risk a lot.  Courtney consulted with him in May and his recommendation was that it's time to force Gilbert into an early retirement.  He explained that the human pineal gland is only a half centimeter in size and that a 1.7 centimeter tumor in this area of the brain is most certainly cause for concern and causing her debilitating symptoms.  He confirmed that in order for Courtney to regain her quality of life and find relief from her constant headaches, vision loss, and cognitive deficits,  that an operation to remove her pineal tumor is necessary.  Courtney was terrified but also releived that she wouldn't have to suffer any longer.

(You can learn more about the pain that pineal tumors cause as well as watch Dr. Shahinian perform the endoscopic surgery by watching this video:

Unfortunately, because his treatment is so state of the art and groundbreaking, Courtney has encountered difficulties getting her health insurance provider to agree to cover any of Dr. Shahinian's fees.  Over the last 6 months and despite how ill she feels, she has made endless calls, written to senators and congressmen, made multiple appeals, and was even interviewed by WAVY TV, a local news station...all with the hope that her insurance company would do the right thing and help to cover at least a portion of Dr. Shahinian's fees.  To date, her efforts have not been successful.

Courtney is currently on a daily regimen of medicine which at least allows her to function during the work day.  Beyond that, her activities have been severely limited.  Due to the incessant migraines, she is usually unable to tolerate loud noises and sunlight, so she spends a good deal of time in her darkened bedroom.  She has lost touch with many friends over the years.  Driving is becoming increasingly difficult for her due to her vision being so poor.  Courtney used to enjoy going to concerts - this also is hardly ever possible anymore.  She is very much alive, but has not been able to "live" for some time now.  

Courtney has reached a point where she is unable to continue fighting and has made the decision to move ahead with the surgery with the understanding that she is financially responsible for Dr. Shahinian's fees.  It is scheduled for December 26th in Los Angeles, California.  This site was set up in the hopes of defraying some of the costs associated with her surgery.  The total cost is upwards of $30,000.  Every little bit helps. Even if you cannot contribute financially at this time, words of encouragement and support are worth their weight in gold.  Even a simple "Like" or sharing this link to your social media platforms would mean a lot.  Thank you for your time and consideration to this cause - because Gilbert's Gotta Go!

Fundraiser Updates

Posted on December 24, 2013

Posted on December 24, 2013

My mom and I arrived safely in California yesterday. We are staying with my grandmother. Today I went to Dr. Shahinian's office for the final consult and the surgery is of course on Thursday. I AM HAVING BRAIN SURGERY THIS WEEK. I think it's finally hitting me. Also, it's a very small world: we went out for pizza lastnight and someone I went to high school with was there! Crazy!

Posted on December 20, 2013

Posted on December 20, 2013

Well, the big day is now less than a week away!  All of my preoperative tests came back normal so I am cleared to get this thing out of my head on Dec. 26th!

My mother, Debbie, the most wonderful, kind woman in the world, will be accompanying me to California.  We leave on Dec. 22nd.

My preoperative visit is Dec. 23rd (Monday), I will meet with Dr. Shahinian and he will answer any remaining questions I have.  I do wonder what would happen if there were to be a tremor or earthquake right when he is knee deep in my brain LOL (I think this is a valid worry considering this is California we're talking about, after all!), I wonder what his answer to that is going to be??   After that, we will then will head over to the hospital for the preoperative "stuff" they need.

A HUGE "plus" is the fact that I am originally from Southern California (Huntington Beach) and I still have many family members there so I get to spend Christmas with family still!  Plus I will be staying at my grandmother's after the operation.

Thanks for tuning in, and until next time, much love!


Posted on December 2, 2013

Posted on December 2, 2013

This is INCREDIBLE!!! Almost $2,000...

If you have a Facebook page and want to receive updates this way, you can "like" the page that is set up at

I, along with my mom, will post updates before, during, and after the surgery.  Pineal brain tumors are quite rare so the other goal is to raise awareness of this condition!

Thanks guys :)

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