Metro Detroit woman shares recovery story following a unique brain surgery

‘Just know that it can and does get better’

A woman from Royal Oak had her malignant brain tumor removed at the Henry Ford Cancer Center, here is the story of her groundbreaking surgery and recovery.

Royal Oak, Mich. – A woman from Royal Oak had her malignant brain tumor removed at the Henry Ford Cancer Center, here is the story of her groundbreaking surgery and recovery.

Janae Nelson is a speech-language pathologist, so you can imagine her frustration when she started noticing trouble with her own speech.

“With my language, it would be like I couldn’t think of a word,” Nelson says, “and that’s normal to an extent with people, especially if they’re tired or stressed, but it was happening more frequently than would be considered normal.”

She would later learn that this was all because of a malignant brain tumor in the part of her brain that is connected to her speech. She was directed to Dr. Rock at the new Brigita Harris Cancer Pavilion at Henry Ford Health, who would perform a unique type of surgery on her brain, while she was awake.

“When I found out I was going to be having an awake craniotomy, I was like ‘that is so cool’ and then I was like ‘wait, this is me we’re talking about, it’s not cool.’”

Neurosurgeon Dr. Jack Rock of Henry Ford Health explains, “the patient is awake, talking to the speech therapist and you’re mapping, you see on the surface where the abnormality is, where the tumor is.”

He says, “and while Janae is talking to the speech therapist, she’ll count from one to ten, and she’ll count one, two, and then about four, we’ll touch the brain. So, it would be like one, two, three...six, and then we would take it off. If that happens, we know that we’re touching a part of the brain, that if we remove, there’s a high chance she’ll lose speech.”

As you can see, the work of Dr. Rock was a success, but it has been a journey since her surgery in March of 2021.

“When I woke up, the first couple of days, I could say ‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘stupid’,” Janae says, “those are the only words I really had.”

But as a speech-language pathologist, Janae has an even deeper appreciation for her patients that she plans to get back to, as soon as she’s fully recovered.

She says, “I hope to be able to get back to work soon. I just hope to be able to get back to work, to be able to help those patients and relate to those patients and tell them my story if they would like to hear it, and just know that it can and does get better.”

In the meantime, Janae is raising awareness about brain cancer by participating in a fundraising 5K this weekend on Belle Isle called Head For The Cure.

Janae says, “I have some great support coming to help me and do the walk with me and support my team.”

For more information on the Head For The Cure 5K, click here.


About the Authors:

You can watch Kim on the morning newscast weekdays from 4:30 to 7 a.m., and frequently doing reports on the 5 and 6 p.m. newscasts.

Morgan is a Digital Editor and has been with WDIV since May of 2022. She is also studying political science and communications at Wayne State University.