T-Boz's Brain Tumor Battle

Tionne Watkins, better known as T-Boz, has been living with a secret for the last three years. She has been on a long journey trying to beat the medical odds and get back on stage.

"I'm waking up every day just breathing. That's a great day for me," Watkins told CBS news correspondent Michelle Miller.

For Watkins, having a good day is something to sing about. As T-Boz, she was one of the lead singers in the popular group TLC. Their songs spoke of empowerment and strength, something Watkins was no stranger to.

"I've dealt with being in and out of the hospital my whole life," Watkins added.

Since childhood, she suffered from sickle cell anemia and was told that she wouldn't live past 30. Told that she wouldn't be able to have children and would be disabled, Watkins, 39, has a 9-year-old daughter.

She had seemingly beaten the odds. But three years ago, her doctor delivered news she never imagined: she was told she had a brain tumor.

The tumor was benign, but because of her sickle cell disease, surgery was risky. Watkins could lose everything a performer needs: hearing, balance, facial movement, and speech.

"[I] can't just go have surgery?" she asked. "They were like, 'No, I'm sorry, sickle cell is a factor, that's your reality and you can die."

But Watkins had doubts and wanted to explore the surgery option.

"I'm still going old school surgery and I want to find that person who I have faith in saving my hearing and even trying to just save me, save my face, save my balance, try, just try. Tell me that you're going to try to save my life," she recalled pleading.

Enter Dr. Keith Black from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, who is one of the country's best neurosurgeons.

According to Black, the tumor was about the size of a strawberry and a major, complicating factor was preserving the nerves.

In order to remove the tumor, doctors had to tease the tumor away from those nerves, so they wouldn't do any damage to the facial and hearing nerves. This is to avoid coming out of surgery with any facial weakness or hearing loss or even worse, stroke or coma, which can happen.

Black was optimistic he could successfully remove the tumor.

"I have a daughter I have to raise and I need to be here for her. You know what I mean? So it was like I want to live and they made that possible," Watkins said.

Not only was the surgery a success, it made Watkins realize life was a gift to be shared.

"The day I got my speech back, the next day I said, 'Now I'm going to start an album; I'm going to do a solo album,'" she said. "I was tired of this business. I was over it. But I'm like, 'OK, God is blessing me to still be able to sing, hear, talk, maybe I'm supposed to do this."

Watkins also sat down with Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith to share some more insight on her incredible experience.

To hear more about T-Boz's brain tumor battle, watch below:


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