The Mountain of Motherhood

Liz Kietzman overcame challenges on her journey to becoming a mom.

When is a headache more than a headache? For many women, symptoms like headache, fatigue, or irregular menstrual cycles can easily be brushed off as the cost of modern life. For Liz Kietzman, these symptoms meant nothing until she and her husband started trying for a baby. That's when her life changed. 

Kietzman and her husband, Jeff, had always wanted children. As lifelong Northlanders, they were looking forward to giving their kids the same loving upbringing that they experienced. When they started trying for kids, they found that it would be more difficult than they imagined. 

"I had had an irregular menstrual cycle, so when we wanted to start trying, I figured it would be worth checking in with my ob/GYN," says Liz. 

Liz checked out fine with her normal doctor and was placed on a medication intended to regulate her cycles. When that didn't work, she was referred to a reproductive specialist, that ordered some very revealing blood work. 

"I remember exactly where I was when I got the call--I was in the middle of an aisle at HyVee. They said, 'Your blood work is a little more abnormal than we'd like. They indicate that you may have a brain tumor.'" says Liz. 

She left in a daze, wondering what this meant for her life and dreams of having children. Looking back, she says that she missed signs that should have warned her that something was wrong--not just irregular cycles, but intense migraines, emotional ups and downs, weight gain, and fatigue. 

As a former Chiefs cheerleader and coach for the North Kansas City dance team, Liz was used to intense exercise, which she attributed her symptoms to. 

"I always thought that maybe I was overexercising or constantly changing my diet or stress. For headaches, maybe I had too much caffeine or not enough sleep. I was always able to find an excuse for what my symptoms were," says Liz. 

After meeting with an endocrinologist, Dr. Gebremedhin, she learned that she had macroprolactinoma, a tumor of the pituitary gland that affected her prolactin levels, which supports breastfeeding. Although macroprolactinoma occurs in both men and women, it's more common in women and can seriously affect fertility. Because her tumor was benign, she was placed on medication to shrink it. 

Cabergoline, the medication, was effective but had terrible side effects. A few months later, they rechecked her tumor. It had shrunk, and her prolactin levels had fallen. She was told that her likelihood of getting pregnant was still very low, but to focus on the bright side. She had a much higher quality of life without the headaches, fatigue, and potential loss of vision as her tumor was pressing on her optic nerve. 

Liz and Jeff decided to try anyway. In September of 2015, they started trying and got pregnant right away. 

"The coolest experience was bringing my daughter into my endocrinologist's office. It was awesome to see how much he had changed my life, not just by shrinking my tumor but by giving me the chance to become a mother," says Liz. 

Liz was able to breastfeed her daughter for a year successfully. Although it raised her prolactin levels again, she was given the go-ahead to try again. Her son was born in 2018. 

Now, the family of four is complete. With their parents' support, they've carved out a life of activity and joy, as Liz coaches the Northwest Bearcat Steppers Dance Team, and Jeff teaches and coaches track at North Kansas City High School. Liz also works as a wellness partner at Amare Global. But her most important job is as a wife and mom. 

While the tumor could come back at any time, Liz is just grateful for the opportunity to live life to the fullest now. 

"Now that I'm on the other side of it, I'm just grateful. It's made me a better Christian, a more appreciative mom, and just an overall lover of life. It was a mountain to climb," says Liz. 

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