ST. PETERSBURG — Kentaya Beeler is a survivor. She endured intense pain in her head for years that was misdiagnosed as migraines. A brain tumor was eventually discovered and she survived the delicate six hour surgery. After the surgery she conquered a debilitating condition that robbed her of her balance, reducing her to use canes and walkers for years.
Beeler is now ready to begin a new triumphant phase of her life as Dr. Beeler, as she celebrated obtaining her doctorate degree and holding her graduation party as a fundraiser for the Brain Tumor Alliance of Pinellas County Saturday, April 23 at the Poynter Institute.
The only child of Betty and Harry Beeler, she graduated from St. Petersburg High School and attended Florida A&M, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting in 1999. She continued her dreams by moving to New York and began her career as a cash accountant and auditor. However, the dream quickly evaporated as the powerful headaches began.
“The pain was so bad even the ticking of a clock was intense,” Beeler said. “I spent a lot of time in dark rooms.”
She began a round of visits to neurologist, endocrinologist and pain management specialist. Still nothing was found.
“They ended up putting cortisone shots at the base of my head and Botox in my muscles,” she explained.
In 2004 she returned to Florida and worked as an auditor at Construction Company in Orlando. She eventually obtained her Master’s Degree in Taxation from Nova Southeastern University, H. Wayne Huizenga Business and Entrepreneurship program. She started a new career as a college professor, but the pain still plagued her.
At Beeler’s insistent urging, she was finally given the authorization for a MRI. She was informed that she had a brain tumor on her pituitary gland called macro adenoma and was immediately sent to a neurosurgeon.
June 2, 2009, Beeler had surgery at Dr. Phillips Hospital in Orlando. The surgery was considered a success by the surgeon, but her mother raised concerns that her daughter was being released the next day when she had been pre-approved for a three-day stay. Plus, balance issues had begun.
The doctor attributed it to a possible bad reaction to the anesthesia or possibly due to low sodium levels. The crisis of the brain tumor was over, but now there were new hurdles to overcome. As the imbalance increased, she was robbed of her mobility. Another round of going to specialists started.
“We went to the Cleveland Clinic, the USF Research Center in Tampa and Shands Hospital in Gainesville,” Beeler said.
She was determined to enjoy her young life. “I was partying with my cane, it became my accessory,” she laughed.
The undiagnosed condition continued from 2009 through 2011. Her situation worsened and she had to take a lesser position as an adjunct professor with twice the course load. Eventually her medical benefits were taken away and she had to buy expensive Cobra Health Insurance at $660 per month, further exhausting her shrinking salary.
“I was told that because I did not get fired and was employable, I did not quality for unemployment,” she explained. With no children, she did not qualify for Medicaid or food stamps.
Her fighting spirit pushed her to pursue a doctorate degree in the middle of her health crisis. She decided to write her dissertation on the long-term care tax deductions and how it effects a family’s decision in purchasing long term care insurance.
“Had I know when I was working at the university, or at the construction company or in New York, had I known, I wouldn’t have just bought life insurance,” she said, explaining that long term care insurance would have saved her from financial ruins.
March 12, 2016, Beeler received her doctorate in Business with a specialization in Accounting from Capella University. She said the closer she got to finishing her doctorate, the more encouraged she became to walk on her own, to regain her financial independence and to take back her life.
Beeler turned her graduation celebration into a fundraiser for the Brain Tumor Alliance of Pinellas County. The organization uses funds to help families with medical expenses, travel and research. She requested that in lieu of gifts to give donations to the alliance.
“God has given you one more day,” Beeler repeated the words her mother told her. “My father said, ‘You only have one shot at this thing called life so give it your best shot.’”