A flurry of curls followed Marianne Anderson’s contagious laughter as she told her overcoming story. The seventh grader at Southern Middle School had surgery for a cavernoma on her brain stem in August 2021 and instead of choosing to home-school, returned to seated classes, first in a wheelchair with a safety belt.
Anderson experienced a stroke and has had to learn how to control the right side of her body.
After months of physical and occupational therapy, she now uses a cane.
And upon the request of her physician, Dr. Barton, she assists resident physicians at the University of North Carolina’s Children’s Hospital work on overcoming anxiety in treating youngsters.
The talkative 12-year-old said her high empathy level was a gift. She said seeing others going into the hospital was hard because it was the worst experience, and she knew what others would be experiencing.
Her altruistic spirit shines despite her ongoing struggle to heal.
“I had four IVs and two tubes. I kept losing weight. I ate a lot of chicken noodle soup,” Anderson said about being nauseous, dealing with balance issues, feeling the room spin and irritating blurry peripheral vision.
Cavernomas are thin-walled fluid-filled sacs that look like berries, and if they leak, can cause death. Anderson said hers had been completely removed.
Marianne Anderson talks about overcoming brain surgery Dec. 14, 2022, at Southern Middle School.
Her eyes quickly grow tired when reading, but somehow, she pushes herself to help others, reading emails for her student organization. Anderson is on a discipline committee with the Student Leadership Council. She shares advice on how to motivate good behavior.
“The most important thing is to be a good listener,” Anderson said about learning where behavioral problems originate.
The seventh grade is well known as the grade of transition, where students decide to work harder on academic excellence or social endeavors.
“I know enough about cavernomas to know I don’t want to be a brain surgeon. I want to work with horses and help people,” Anderson said about her future goals.
With a cowgirl’s grit, she said it was disheartening to make a B in math after being a straight-A student.
She currently has all As with one B in math.
“I still push myself,” Anderson said about wanting to outdo her older brother, Matt, at Pinecrest High School.
Anderson said she was on a yearlong waiting list for horse therapy when she met Jim.
“I was still in a wheelchair with the belt, and he came to our house, and it was magical. He lowered his head, and I held onto his neck,” Anderson said with tears in her eyes about Jim, the pony that rides and drives a carriage.
She has been a horseback rider since she was eight. Her first mount was Champ, a palomino, which died of skin cancer.
Anderson said she desperately wanted to ride again but could not lift her legs the way she needed. So, she drove Jim, and with less than seven times of practice, she entered a competition and came in fifth out of seven. In her last competition, a cone competition, she did not knock down a single ball.
“I got on a horse for the first time last weekend,” Anderson said.
Anderson lives with her brother, Max, 16, and father, Ryan, who is a history professor and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and her mother, Christen, an IT specialist for a hospital, and Pete and Fern, the dogs, and a fish named Nova.
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Feature photo: Marianne Anderson talks about overcoming brain surgery Dec. 14, 2022, at Southern Middle School.
~Article, photo, and video by Sandhills Sentinel Journalist Stephanie M. Sellers.