Discover Hope

Billi's Story: Thirteen Hours of Hope - From Patient to Survivor

Dec. 2, 2019

Sept. 9, 2014 would prove to be a day that changed Billi Ewing’s life forever.

The mother of three from Dayton, Ohio underwent a complex 13-hour craniotomy to remove a benign atypical meningioma that had invaded her brain.

A meningioma is a tumor that forms on the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord just inside the skull.

Billi had been experiencing vision issues in her right eye, so her neuro-ophthalmologist ordered an MRI of her brain. Prior to this, the only time Billi had ever been in the hospital was for the births of her children and for very minor procedures. She expected this to be just a precautionary test.

“I was thinking they needed an in-depth look at my eye, almost like an X-Ray for your eyeball,” Billi said.

The MRI revealed a more serious issue. A brain tumor was entangling around Billi’s optic nerve. It is unclear when the tumor started or how long it had been growing.

The news shocked Billi and her family, particularly her mother—Daria.

“It was the worst day of my life, or at least I thought that at the time,” Daria said. “It was surreal. I couldn’t believe it was happening.”

Her mother knew that Billi would be cautious to tell her because of how devastating it would be to hear. No mother wants to get news that their youngest daughter has a brain tumor.

Billi was referred to the University of Cincinnati Brain Tumor Center. That’s where she met Mario Zuccarello, MD, world-renowned surgeon and director of skull base surgery at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute.

The Brain Tumor Center at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute offers the most advanced treatments to patients across Greater Cincinnati and around the world. A craniotomy, the procedure Billi underwent, is one of many innovative treatments UC Health offers.

Dr. Zuccarello and the rest of Billi’s care team at the Gardner Neuroscience Institute treated her with compassion and gave her the best possible care.

Throughout her journey, Billi relied heavily on her faith to get her through this difficult time. She was determined to return to the life and the people she loves.

Since overcoming her diagnosis, Billi has become a strong advocate in the community as a motivational speaker and gifted singer. She remains involved in advocacy groups with fellow survivors.

“She has been a trooper—a warrior,” Daria said.