Breast cancer survivor gets treatment for another decade-long health mystery

A local mom was diagnosed with panic attacks, following her breast cancer treatments, but she found a doctor at UTHealth/Memorial Hermann, who helped her realize that anxiety had nothing to do with her serious problem. 


Tiffeny Morrow is a busy wife and mom of two, as well as a breast cancer survivor. She started having odd symptoms, after completing her treatments. 

"It felt like a heat in my stomach and I often describe it as a sneeze," explained Tiffeny. "It was a feeling where I knew something was about to happen, like a sneeze and once it did, it was over. And it kind of appeared to my family like I was laughing or crying or sometimes in inappropriate times, so they knew that something was off."

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It took years to find out that these episodes were not post-traumatic stress disorder from her cancer diagnosis. An MRI showed she had an abnormal brain formation. 

"So, this is a relatively uncommon entity called periventricular nodular heterotopia. I know that's a mouthful, but the brain starts with a small narrow tube, and cells have to move out from that to form the brain that we know but it's lumps and bumps and folds and along that process, when those cells get trapped next to where they form and don't end up where they should go, they form these nodules or clusters and that was causing her seizures," says Dr. Tandon, a neurosurgeon with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth and Memorial Hermann. 

Tiffeny was thrilled to find him through a friend posting on social media about the impressive work he was doing. She says he helped her realize he could cure her epilepsy. 

"She was reluctant," Dr. Tandon said. "Initially, she was scared of getting a haircut. She was scared of brain surgery."

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Hesitant, because at 40, she lost her hair from chemotherapy. She wasn't ready to go bald again for this treatment at 50. Plus, it was serious surgery. 

"I was terrified, and it took me a long time to really trust him and trust God," Tiffeny explained. "That He was in control and there was one day that Dr. Tandon actually said, I can do this, and it was just a light bulb moment for me."

Years ago, Dr. Tandon says it would have required a very serious open brain surgery with a chance of severe side effects, but not anymore. 

"What we were able to do in her case was to put laser probes to destroy this just with laser energy with heat energy and this is done by putting a probe precisely into the nodules.," he noted. "Then, inside the MRI scanner, we turn on the laser to watch these nodules get destroyed in real-time."

Dr. Tandon used technology developed right here in Texas for the delicate procedure. He has been performing laser ablations for about a decade, but not this type. 

"This particular entity is quite rare. Despite that, we've been able to become experts just from word of mouth and from people knowing we are willing to take on these challenging cases," Dr. Tandon said. 


He has performed about 40 of them. It sure helped Tiffeny. She wasn't able to drive for years because of her symptoms.

"I sent a picture to Dr. Tandon of the first day that I drove," Tiffeny said. "My husband was the passenger, and he looked a little nervous, but it was a good experience. And so slowly I've gotten more and more confident and here I am."  

"It's really an honor and a privilege to be able to do what we do and to restore people's lives to them," said a smiling Dr. Tandon. "There's nothing more rewarding I think in all of medicine, and certainly my day, my month is lit up by moments like this. When we see those pictures, we get those thank-you cards, it's incredible."

Tiffeny sure feels restored, surviving breast cancer and now free from seizures for the first time in a decade.


For more information on epilepsy, click here. And to learn more about Memorial Hermann's epilepsy program, visit their website.