For Vesce, the 2016-2017 basketball season was hectic. As a member of the Honey Bees -- the official dance team of the Charlotte Hornets -- she balanced practice sessions, games, and official events with a modeling career and preparing for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). When she suddenly experienced hearing loss and ringing in her ears in December 2016, she brushed it off as the effects of stress.
“It was just really random and came on just like that,” said Vesce, 24. “I’ve never truly been sick in my life and never had an ear infection, so I didn’t think much about it at the time.”
But the symptoms seemed to progress, and she started getting migraines, so Vesce turned to a local urgent care center for answers. She was diagnosed with an ear infection and sent home with antibiotics. By February, her symptoms had gotten worse and included dizziness and swollen lymph nodes. She still danced with the Honey Bees but struggled to hear the music.
Vesce finally went to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor, who continued medication for a few weeks. When her condition had not improved several weeks later, the doctor sent her for a CT scan. In March, as Vesce drove home from taking her LSAT, she received a call from the doctor. The scan had revealed a mass on her skull.
Vesce was referred to Duke ENT specialist David Kaylie, MD, MS, who is a head and neck surgeon. He knew exactly what was wrong: Vesce had a glomus jugulare tumor -- an extremely rare type of skull base tumor deep in the base of the skull. Though benign, the tumor was dangerously close to the nerves that control swallowing, hearing, balance, facial movement, and vocal cord function. As the tumor grew, it could damage any, or all, of those functions.
These types of skull base tumors grow in multiple places within the head and neck, so Kaylie ordered an MRI. The test revealed a second tumor wrapped around Vesce’s carotid artery, the blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain.