Face of Defense: Air Force NCO Resumes Career After Tumor, Hearing Loss

Over 10 years ago, while stationed in Hawaii, Air Force Master Sgt. Geoffrey VanDyck had the constant feeling of water in his ear. He knew something was wrong.

Nothing seemed to relieve the feeling, so his medical provider sent him to an ear, nose and throat specialist. The cause of his pain and discomfort was found: a golf ball-sized tumor — an acoustic neuroma.

According to the Mayo Clinic, acoustic neuroma is a noncancerous, usually slow-growing tumor that develops on the main vestibular nerve leading from the inner ear to the brain. In some cases, it can grow rapidly, pressing against the brain and interfering with vital functions.

In VanDyck’s case, radiation was not an option, so surgery was necessary.

Choosing Surgery

The tumor was located close to VanDyck’s spinal cord, so his doctor gave him two choices: have surgery to remove the tumor and have a 1 percent chance of hearing again or let the tumor continue to grow and have a 100 percent chance of becoming a quadriplegic within a year.

“I did the quick math and said OK, let’s lose the hearing,” VanDyck said.

Concurrently, it was VanDyck’s turn for a permanent change of station. The surgery was scheduled in San Antonio, while he was en route to his next duty station. The timing of the surgery would leave him separated from his family for…

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