All heart: Lake Park girl fights brain tumor
Tate Hall's problems started with a twitching left foot. They turned out to include a brain tumor and a dead femur bone.
The Mike and Beth Hall family moved to Lake Park six years ago from Wisconsin.
Mike, though, continued to return to Wisconsin to help officiate softball games each year, taking his daughter, Tate, with him.
Last summer, on July 11, Tate, then 15, had a grand mal seizure.
"I thought it was cramping," Tate said of the pain when it first started a couple days earlier in her foot.
It was a Thursday when it started, and she said she didn't feel well, but thought it might be dehydration or just the aches and pains of sports. She participates in volleyball, softball and basketball at Lake Park-Audubon High School, where she is a sophomore.
By Saturday when she and her dad drove to Centuria, Wis., her foot continued to twitch and that eventually progressed up her leg.
She was watching a game when she suddenly had to go to the bathroom. Then she was immediately hungry. She ate a burger and was standing watching the game when her leg started to shake.
She became unstable and tried to sit down before she fell down. The trembles went up her spine and she fell the rest of the way to the ground. She couldn't speak.
"You're in so much shock, you can't call out or yell," she said.
She clenched her teeth so she wouldn't bite her tongue, and waited until someone noticed her. After a family friend saw her and asked if she was all right, she closed her eyes and woke up in the back of an ambulance and thought the whole thing was a dream.
"It was like you took a bucket of water and splashed it on my face," she said.
The next few hours are sketchy to Tate, but not to her mom and dad.
Beth, who was home with their son, Mitchell, received a call from Mike, and she could hear sirens in the background. She jumped in the car and drove to her daughter. After a CT scan, Tate was transferred to the Children's Hospital in the Twin Cities, where Beth met them.
Test results showed that Tate had a golf ball-sized tumor in her brain between the two hemispheres. The tumor was causing the twitching.
On July 31, Tate underwent surgery to remove about 90 percent of the tumor. The remaining portion was too close to her brain to remove. Doctors told her it could grow in six months, six years, 60 years -- no one knew.
It turned out to be about six months.
After the initial surgery, Tate was eager to get back to school and sports. She was able to do so about five and a half weeks after the surgery, in which she had three metal plates implanted in her skull.
"It was real important for her to play," Beth said.
Then, earlier this year, Tate was playing basketball when she injured her left knee. She went in for an MRI and learned that -- not only had she torn her ACL -- but part of her femur bone was dead as well. It was likely caused by the post-operative steroids she had to take.
"It was a tough January," Beth said.
But, the family sees it as divine intervention that Tate tore her knee, or they wouldn't have known about the femur until it was much worse. The only way it shows up is through an MRI.
Since they were tipped off early, doctors gave Tate a full body scan, looking for more bone problems. They found more dying bones in her right leg.
They have also learned that Tate's brain tumor is growing back slowly.
She will have bone surgery to stimulate her knee in the near future, and will have radiation on the brain tumor in June, as soon as school is out.
"They're trying to kill the tumor this time," Beth said, rather than use surgery.
She's just trying to get through the rest of the school year.
"The school has been great, real supportive," Beth said.
But schoolwork is difficult because of the medication she's taking.
Tate is taking anti-seizure drugs, and they can leave her tired and feeling like she's in a fog. The pill kicks in about the middle of Algebra II class and she can't remember or focus on what's going on in class.
She tries to keep up with her schoolwork and her grades. But the 'A' student said just going to medical appointments and dealing with the drug's side effects mentally drain her so much that homework is a struggle.
On the other hand, she's learned that "some things are more important than that 'A' you want."
She is a responsible teen, and Beth and Mike had given Tate quite a lot of freedom, and now she's had to go backwards and rely on them again.
"She's been an easy teenager for us," Beth said. "It's hard to have your parents step back in and make daily decisions."
"It's hard knowing I can't do what I used to," Tate said. "It's frustrating. I can't tell you how hard I worked to get back playing in five and a half weeks after the operation."
Now, although she looks fine, with every step she takes, "I have to tell myself to push off with my foot. I don't feel the bottom of my foot. With every step, I'm thinking about what I'm doing."
Getting the awareness out there of what Tate is going through, even though she looks fine, is why the Halls agreed to the benefit in Tate's honor this Saturday. Funding isn't so much a problem as the support from people.
The benefit includes the standard auction and food, but this one also includes a dodge ball tournament, a reflection of Tate and her love of sports.
It includes a silent auction with a grill, golf items, jewelry, pottery, gift baskets and more.
After radiation treatment, Tate is looking forward to horseback riding this summer.
"You realize what you love the most," Tate said of her experience. "I'm missing out on high school. I wish I could come home and complain, 'I can't believe this story I have to write.'
"It hurts to know you aren't like everyone else."
Although no one would know, Tate still has issues with her foot.
"Teaching her to drive a stick shift was interesting," Beth said with a laugh. She was trying to coach Tate that it's a matter of touch with the gas pedal and clutch. Tate had to remind her mom that she has no feeling in her left foot now.
The benefit is Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. in the Lake Park-Audubon Elementary School, Audubon. Admission is a free-will donation.