Judge returns to bench weeks after surgery

Six weeks after surgery to remove a fist-sized tumor on her brain, UH alumna Holly Williamson returned to the judge’s bench. | Courtesy of Dana Philibert

For UH Law School alumna Holly Williamson, 2009 was a memorable year, marked by a professional milestone and a life-altering challenge.

Williamson was sworn in as Harris County Precinct 8 Place 1 justice of the peace in January 2009 after being elected in November 2008. Less than a year later, Williamson would have to tackle a greater challenge after doctors discovered a fist-sized tumor on her brain.

Williamson said the symptoms of her tumor where minimal, and she almost dismissed them entirely. She then began to experience slight headaches, which were uncommon for her. 

“I thought it was associated with my heart beat or maybe high blood pressure,” she said.

She said she mentioned the symptoms to her husband, Dr. Danny Williamson, a chiropractor, to see if there was anything he could do about the light headaches. She also mentioned that the headaches where accompanied by a whooshing sound in her ears, and he became concerned. 

Williamson said he urged her to see a colleague of his with a background in neurology, Dr. Jane Noojin, who also agreed there could be reason for concern. 

Noojin suggested a CT scan in an effort to eliminate any major issues, though Williamson “thought that was just ridiculous.

“I don’t need a (CT) scan, and you all are just overreacting,” Williamson told them. 

After having the CT scan on Nov. 11, Williamson said she began to feel uneasy about everything when doctors told her she also needed to have an MRI done.

“I came out of the (CT) scan, and they said I needed to do an MRI right now.  That woke me up,” she said. “I called my husband and told him something was going on and asked that he come. They did the MRI and by 2:30 p.m. that afternoon they said I had a massive tumor, and I had to see a brain surgeon right now.”

Williamson was referred to Dr. Jonathan Zhang at the Methodist Neurological Institute of Houston’s Methodist Hospital.

During the initial meeting, Zhang told Williamson that he felt the tumor was benign, and the chances of it being cancerous where slim. However, he urged her to have it removed. 

Five days after her CT scan, Williamson had surgery to remove the tumor from her brain. 

Noojin successfully removed the mass during the surgery, which took seven hours.  With virtually no postoperative complications, she was released from Methodist Hospital seven days after surgery.

Following the surgery, Williamson attended vestibular therapy in order to regain her faculties.

 “It’s the type of therapy where you have to make the brain foot connection. As the tumor was on the left side of my brain, the right side of my body was weak; it wasn’t connecting,” Williamson said.

She returned to the bench Jan. 4.

Williamson is confident of a bright future, as she is scheduled to return to the hospital in six months for a follow-up examination and yearly thereafter. 

“I’ve come out of the other side victorious, and it so easy to be joyful,” she said.

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