Tuesday Aug 23 2011
Teen battling brain tumor after surgery
By: Jon Brines Loomis News Correspondent
Shelby Andrews, who grew up in Loomis, just wanted to see her name in lights, but is now battling the effects of a brain tumor. The 19-year-old, who now lives in Rocklin, attended Loomis Grammar School and was a Del Oro High School student until debilitating headaches became too much to bear. Her doctors diagnosed migraines. Last summer, she stood in line for hours in San Francisco for her chance to sing Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” to the judges during American Idol auditions. “I’ve been singing it since I was about three or four,” Andrews said. Shelby Andrews said she had stage fright, but was more worried about getting one of the migraines that plagued her. “I was nervous,” Andrews said. “I was thinking what if I get a migraine when I’m right in front of them?” She said she managed to battle a headache and get through the audition with calm, focused concentration, but did not make it to Hollywood for the 2011 season. After two years of misdiagnosis, Shelby and her mother, Dawn Andrews, were at their wits end. “They (the headaches) kept getting worse and worse,” Dawn Andrews said. “She took Imitrex for the migraines and it was not working. They thought she was bipolar.” On Aug. 12, in the hospital for the tenth time, Shelby told her mother that death was the only thing that could ease her pain. Then, she found out the real reason for the headaches and nose bleeds — a tumor in her brain. “The doctor said we have a tumor in a really complicated area,” Dawn Andrews said. “Shelby said, ‘Get this out of my head. I can’t live like this. I’m not afraid to die.’” Her mom said during the nearly 3-hour operation, Shelby’s three sisters, her family and her boyfriend started writing her letters for her recovery. “When she woke up it was like I got my Shelby back,” Dawn Andrews said. She said Shelby Andrews came out of the operation and sang Whitney Houston’s “I will Always Love You” to her surgeon. “I could feel the release of pressure. (Before) it felt like my eyeballs were going to go out of their socket. To wake up and not to have that pain — the sleep was amazing,” Shelby Andrews said. Dawn Andrews said doctors at Mercy San Juan Medical Center diagnosed her daughter with pilocytic astrocytomas and removed about 20 to30 percent of a benign tumor the size of two sugar cubes located at the base of her brain. The teen understands there will be more surgeries ahead, but said, “I am so thankful and so happy.” A fund has been set up at Bank of America, in Loomis, in Shelby Andrews’ name to assist with her medical expenses. Cyndi Brower, manager of Taco Bell on Horseshoe Bar Road, displays two huge posters of Shelby that tell customers her story. “There will be struggles and she is suffering, but she is strong. Every glimmer of hope you can give her, it helps her recover,” Brower said. “They are a family I’ve seen grow up. Loomis is a small town and people support each other, especially when this stuff happens.” For Shelby Andrews, the support from the community she loves is invaluable. Her father died suddenly three years ago from a heart-related ailment and before surgery, her sister gave Shelby a teddy bear necklace with a special compartment filled with her father’s ashes. “Having all this support, it really makes up for what I’m missing from my dad. My dad was my best friend. If he was here he’d be sleeping on that couch every single night, but I feel his presence,” she said from her hospital bed. Shelby Andrews said she wants to get on with her life and yearns to go to Folsom Lake one more time before summer ends. She also said she wants to attend a Brittany Spears concert and meet her. “ That’s my wish,” she said. In the meantime, Shelby Andrews enjoys the food her sisters sneak into the intensive care ward and said sushi from a local restaurant is her favorite. After her surgery scars heal, she’ll be transferred to San Francisco where targeted radiation will begin to shrink the tumor. She said she’s trying not to think about that. And someday, she hopes for another audition for American Idol. “I love singing. I want to win,” she said.