Woman relieved after 'brain tumor' turns out to be parasite

NEW YORK CITY -- Doctors in New York City fully expected to find a marble-size malignant brain tumor when they opened up Rachel Palma's skull.

Instead, they found a parasite.

"The good news is, I don't have cancer," Palma told WABC-TV.

The neurosurgeons made the discovery last September at Mount Sinai Hospital.

"We were overjoyed," said Dr. Jonathan Rasouli. "We were cheering and clapping. We were so happy. When we got in there and saw that it was a tapeworm, we were like, 'YES!' We were so happy!"

It was January of last year when strange things started happening to the 42-year-old Palma.

She'd suddenly drop her coffee mug. She couldn't remember words. She tried calling deceased relatives.

After countless doctor visits and numerous brain scans, specialists at Mount Sinai found the problem and developed a plan of attack: a three-hour surgery.

The big mystery to this story is how the parasite got there.

Palma never traveled outside the United States. She doesn't recall eating uncooked meat.

And frankly, she says she's given up trying to find an answer.

"I stopped asking questions and started celebrating and making the most out of life," she said, "because in an instant it can be taken away."

Doctors say had they known it was a tapeworm and not a tumor causing all the problems, perhaps a heavy dose of antibiotics would have served as a remedy.

But that doesn't phase Rachel Palma.

"There is not a doubt in my mind that they saved my life," she said. "And they gave me my life back."