Suzanne Spencer's health journey; 'a tumultuous time'

Every morning on FOX6 you, the viewers, welcome us into your homes. WakeUp anchor Suzanne Spencer is flipping the script, taking you into hers.

She’s more comfortable covering a story than being the subject of one. But the new mom took a break from baby Jane to tell her own story. It’s a journey of pain and perseverance. Of hope and healing.

"We’ve had so many positives even though it’s been somewhat of a tumultuous time," said Suzanne.

Back in August, Suzanne shared the best kind of news…"I’m expecting"!

What she didn’t add was what was happening behind-the-scenes.

"I was just starting to have headaches. And they just wouldn’t go away for a period of time," said Suzanne. 

The pregnancy only complicated things.

"It’s really hard to find remedies, when you’re pregnant, for head pain," said Suzanne. 

For Suzanne and her medical team, anything headache-related is a concern.

"I had a tumor removed from my head back in 2021," said Suzanne. 

Drs. Fallon Schloemer and Amrita Vuppala are neuro specialists at Froedtert Hospital.

"You can kind of see the size," said Dr. Amrita

They know Suzanne’s brain better than the back of their hands.

"That tumor that Suzanne had had in the past is in a very high real estate area in the brain. And when I say high real estate area, it’s in a place with a lot of nerves," said Dr. Amrita.

But her history didn’t necessarily explain the headaches. So as doctors monitored things, Suzanne continued on, until one mid-September morning.

"We had a great day at work. We shot some really fun footage with the team. And it was just the next morning I was experiencing these crazy headaches," said Suzanne. 

"So whenever we see that, we want to rule out acute emergencies like stroke or aneurysm. So pretty serious, life-threatening things," said Dr. Amrita.

Thankfully, brain scans showed those were not the issue. But now there was another concern.

"It was about a week after I went into the hospital for the first time, my right eyelid shut for the first time. It’s called ptosis," said Suzanne. 

Suzanne, a regular presence on social media, went largely silent. She saw and appreciated all the messages, she just didn’t have any answers.

"There were no case studies. What I was experiencing was so unique that the medical literature, there was none," said Suzanne. 

"We like to think that every headache, every medical diagnosis reads the textbook. But it’s not always clear," said Dr. Fallon Schloemer.

From there, Suzanne and her husband Paul rode a wave of unpredictable ebbs and flows.

"There were many days in September, and October in particular, that were pretty dark days. I was in bed. I was throwing up from the head pain. It was a really hard time," said Suzanne. 

"Not being able to help you, was the hardest part. I don’t know, we were just surviving each day," said Paul. 

Amid the fog, they held onto rare moments of light.

"Both [baby] showers, my eye was open, I didn’t have a headache and that was huge. I have those incredible moments to look back on," said Suzanne. 

A date night here, a Bucks game there.

"I would post about some of those moments. But what I wouldn’t post is like two days later when I’m in bed, sick, head pain, with so many questions," said Suzanne. 

For a couple who got engaged at the Grand Canyon, their world became quite small.

"A trip down the block was vacation for us. Just to get out of the house was huge," said Suzanne. 

What never changed, though, was her approach to all of it.

"She’s an incredibly determined, smart, brave individual," said Dr. Amrita. 

"Not once did she complain about it. She was like, okay, this is what I have to do to figure out what’s going on and to get better," said Dr. Fallon Schloemer. 

"Being negative or feeling like ‘poor me’ was just not an option for me. I’m still learning what this whole experience means to me, to us, to our whole family in the future, but I think that going at it with the right mindset has been life-changing," said Suzanne. 

At the end of November, a brief return to work was quickly taken away when her eye closed for a fourth time.

"You’re out of answers, you have no options left. And we’re like, you can’t be in a 10/10 pain situation every day when you’re miserable for two months, until your due date," said Paul.

They went so far as to schedule brain surgery at 35 weeks pregnant.

"And then, two days later, back to the drawing board because my eye was open," said Suzanne. 

Surgery was canceled. Then a few weeks later, a very different surprise.

"My water actually broke outside of Froedtert’s ER. So I’m getting ready to walk in the ER and I’m thinking, This sounds like a news story," said Suzanne.

Jane Palmer was born 2.5 weeks early, happy and healthy.

"Could everything that I was experiencing, could it stop when I gave birth? And we learned that that wasn’t the case," said Suzanne. 

Two days later her eye closed for a fifth time. And two weeks after that she was back at the clinic with her doctor.

"She lifted my eyelid and that’s really when everything went into motion pretty quickly," said Suzanne. 

Her eye was essentially frozen. This time, surgery was unavoidable.

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"It was pretty scary. Just because I’ve done the surgery before doesn’t mean it’s any less intimidating. I trusted my team that was doing it with my life, right" said Suzanne. 

The surgeon removed an infection from the same part of her brain as the original tumor. And then, they waited.

"I’m not a very patient person. I’m learning to be," said Suzanne. 

Her eye started to open again three weeks later.

"So much of this is you have to wait, you have to give it time," said Suzanne. 

There are no guarantees, but Suzanne and her team are optimistic that, with time, the worst is behind them.

And one thing is clear. She's seeing a bright future with Jane.

"The icing on the cake, right? Is to see that baby Jane is beautiful and healthy and thriving," said Dr. Fallon Schloemer.

"Her mom overcame so much just to bring her into this world. And I’m so proud of her," said Dr. Amrita.

"What really matters is I’m here, and I can take care of my daughter, and she got here healthy. And you know what more could we ask for" said Suzanne. 

Drs. Schloemer and Vuppala plan to write an article about Suzanne’s journey for a medical journal, hoping if someone else ends up with that particularly rare combination they’ll be able to learn from the treatments and eventual resolution of Suzanne’s story.

"Being negative or feeling like Poor me was just not an option for me. I’m still learning what this whole experience means to me, to us, to our whole family in the future, but I think that going at it with the right mindset has been life-changing," said Suzanne.