Matt Lee, a deputy district attorney in Washoe County who is running for Justice of the Peace in Sparks, will be taking some time off the campaign trail to undergo brain surgery to remove a rare, but benign brain tumor.
The attorney suffers from acoustic neuroma, a rare, benign tumor that affects the nerves that control balance and hearing in the brain. It does not spread to other parts of the brain or body, but it can continue to grow if left untreated, which can be life- threatening.
Lee says the tumor caught him totally off guard.
“I noticed that the hearing in one ear was declining, so I went to see my local ears/nose/throat specialist. He did some tests and discovered the tumor and referred me to a specialist at the University of Utah, as no one locally does this kind of surgery. While I had hoped they would hold off until after the election for surgery, the doctor didn’t want to wait,” says Lee.
This type of tumor does not impact the cognitive function of the brain, according to Dr. Clough Shelton at the University of Utah, who will be performing the surgery. “I would expect this type of surgery to have no bearing on these type of (cognitive) issues or any long term impact.”
Dr. Clough says in most cases patients return to their normal routines four to six weeks after surgery.
“The only long-term impact the doctor expects is loss of hearing in my right ear,” says Lee.
Lee jokes that he is now an expert on this rare type of a tumor, the symptoms of which include single-sided hearing loss, tinnitus, a feeling of fullness in the ear, and short-term balance disturbances or vertigo. If an acoustic tumor becomes large it may push on the surface of the brainstem but not grow into brain tissue. Continued tumor growth that goes untreated may threaten neurological function and even the person’s life, which is why the doctor told Lee not to wait until November.
While Lee recuperates from his surgery, campaigning will continue.
“There is no reason to believe that the surgery will have any impact at all on my ability to be an attorney or a judge,” Lee says. “But walking door to door will be tough for a few weeks. So, we are lining up a lot of friends to do some walking for me while I recuperate. The outpouring of support from colleagues and peers has been amazing, and for that I’m incredibly grateful.”
Lee’s wife, Adrienne, says she’ll keep people posted about Matt’s surgery and recovery on his campaign Facebook page, as well as on his website, MattLeeForJudge.com.
Lee expects to return to the campaign trail and to work at the District Attorney’s office weeks before the November election.
“Facing this new challenge has, frankly, made me rethink my priorities. It’s helped me to focus on what’s important, and for me that is family and my community. I’m more determined than ever now to run and win and be the best judge ever for the residents of Sparks.”