LEXINGTON, Ky. — When Kathy Stovall noticed a lump on her head late in 2019, she was told it was nothing to worry about, but she should keep an eye on it to make sure it didn't grow.
She put Meghan Southworth on the case.
Why not? Southworth knows the back of Stovall’s head like she knows the back of her own hand. She has been Stovall’s hairstylist for more than 14 years.
“When you’re putting color in, the hair is parted, everything is smoothed out. When I was in the back of her head (on that day) it just looked different to me,” Southworth explained of that Halloween day in 2020.
From Southworth’s chair, Stovall called doctors to schedule appointments. Scans and an MRI revealed what was really going on inside her head.
“It was a large tumor,” Stovall said. “7.5 centimeters, about 3 inches wide, and they said, ‘this has to come out.'"
The tumor, referred to as a meningioma, was benign and hadn’t yet attached itself to Stovall’s brain. It was contained to the lining of the skull, but getting dangerously close to Stovall’s optic nerve. Continued growth could have led to vision impairment, if not blindness.
“Oct. 31 will always be the day I’m thinking, ‘Thank God for Meghan,’” Stovall said.
In January, Stovall had most of the tumor removed, along with a portion of her skull. A titanium plate now holds that together. A large scar serves as a permanent reminder. Stovall will be watched very closely by doctors going forward, and the tumor could begin to grow again, in which case radiation might be necessary. Her long brown hair is a thing of the past, as it continues to grow back with flecks of gray.
“Just getting used to my new reflection in the mirror,” Stovall said of the new look she might choose to keep. (She isn’t allowed to color now until the scar fully heals).
Her husband might actually need more time getting accustomed to her new look.
“It’s funny, in the grocery store the other day, he couldn’t find me because he forgot my hair is different,” Stovall joked.
She can joke now, but it wasn’t funny back in October, or for those 10 weeks she waited between receiving the diagnosis and undergoing successful surgery.
“Right now, I can feel my heart racing,” Stovall described of her emotions while reliving what happened to her last fall.
Stovall has been coming to see Southworth for 14 years. The stylist/client relationship is sacred to so many, and to these two, it now has a whole new meaning.
“We’re going to be together forever,” Southworth said.
Stovall wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It even goes beyond my relationship with Meghan. It’s my family and her family,” Stovall said, while sharing a text message she had sent to Southworth’s father to thank him for raising her in the manner in which he did.
Southworth was reluctant to say something about the lump, but ultimately knew she had to do it for her friend.
“I was in my head, like, ‘do I say something?’” Southworth explained. “He (the doctor) said it was amazing we found it because of its placement. It looked like how a normal skull would look.”
Fortunately, Southworth knew the back of Stovall’s head well enough to know there wasn’t anything "normal" about it on that day.
“To go through this with her… It’s forever life-changing,” Stovall added.
This story was originally published by Michael Berk at WLEX.