Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dropping the C-Bomb Part 2

After the doctor told me I had a brain tumor, I thought, "That's all she wrote. Time to say goodbye to everyone." I asked the doctor if I would live to see my son graduate. He said he couldn't say and referred me to an oncologist.

Sometimes a crisis can pull families together.  My sister worked hastily to find the best doctor she could to evaluate my case.  In the meantime, she suggested I gather the many pictures that had been taken of my head.

This is when things started happening in a hurry.  I consulted a neurosurgeon who had done back surgery on my husband, while my sister had found the name of another neurosurgeon.

Note: I have found out that not all neurosurgeons specialize in brain surgery.

The two neurosurgeons agreed on a few points. One was that my tumor had been growing in my head since Sputnik (look it up). In other words, it had been growing a long time. The other thing they seemed to agree on was that I hadn't had a stroke.  It was the tumor that caused me to pass out in public.

They also agreed that the surgeon my sister found was one of the best in the business, so I consulted him. The surgeon was very confident in himself. That confidence can come across as arrogance, but you want arrogance from someone who is going to play with your head.

He said I was "strong enough" for an awake craniotomy.  He explained other options, such as watching and waiting, but he said that with me being awake (for part of the procedure) he could remove more of the tumor.

My tumor has a name.  It grew to 7 x 5 x 4 centimeters, and so was dubbed the "toxic twinkie", as it was about the size of the loathsome sponge cake. It (and what's left of it) resides in my right frontal lobe.

We scheduled the awake craniotomy to resect the toxic twinkie.  In an awake craniotomy, a patient is not awake the whole time, but at some point, is awakened  so that he/she can  respond to commands as the brain is probed.  So during surgery, I was asked to move my arms and legs, and answer some basic questions.  I truly felt like an "airhead".  Given the fact my head was cracked open, I did have a headache.  I think the whole procedure took five to six hours. I like so say that it was like a bad Star Trek episode without the Star Trek.

We arrived at the hospital at about 6 a.m. I was in a holding pattern for a few hours, while anesthesiologists and nurses visited briefly and left.  During this time, I was having second thoughts about this awake brain surgery thing, especially when the anesthesiologists kept reminding me that I would be awake, but would need to hold very still.  

When I was asked if anesthesia made me nauseous, I said "yes".  The anesthesiology team said, "You need to tell us if you need to get sick, so we can tip the bed over."

How comforting. Valium was requested to take the edge off, but denied as I needed to be on top of my game to assist during surgery.

It turns out, I didn't sick during surgery (that happened afterwards). However there were some surprises in store.

1 comment:

Tina said...

Hi Eden! Sounds like our tumors were about the same size. They got about 80% of mine out. After this next chemo, I am done. Just watching for growths on MRIs now.