A terrifying diagnosis turned into a scene from a horror movie when a woman’s brain tumor turned out to actually be a parasite.
Rachel Palma of Middletown, New York, has recovered and been given clear brain scans since the chilling find, but it was just a year and a half ago when that wasn’t the case.
The 42-year-old said she began noticing something wrong in January 2018.
In addition to having hallucinations, nightmares and insomnia, she said she would forget words, drop things all of a sudden and try to call relatives who were dead or nonexistent.
“My episodes were getting more and more bizarre. There were days that I didn’t know where I was,” Palma told the "Today" show.
After several visits to urgent care and even more brain scans and testing, doctors noticed a lesion on the left side of her brain, the area that controls language and behavior in right-handed people.
Neurosurgeons at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai believed at the time that it was a malignant brain tumor, and told Palma she would need surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
“My husband and I were both in shock and we just wanted it taken care of,” Palma said.
She scheduled surgery with Dr. Jonathan Rasouli in September, but instead of having a tumor removed, doctors found “this very thin, very well encapsulated thing. It looked like a quail egg,” from which a baby tapeworm came out soon after, Rasouli said.
Doctors assured it was good news.
"We were, like, cheering and clapping. We were so happy,” Rasouli told WABC. “When we got in there and saw that it was a tapeworm, we were like, 'Yes!' We were so happy!"
They explained parasites are normally removed using antibiotics, but realizing the lesion was not a malignant tumor made it that much easier to treat.
“The good news is I don’t have cancer,” Palma joked.
As for the parasite in her brain, she said hasn’t traveled to any countries where parasites may be common and hasn’t eaten raw pork. Even though doctors can’t quite pinpoint where she may have picked it up, Palma said she’s happier not knowing.