Boy did I give some of my readers some wrong information in my first installment. In all the emotional intensity/discovery of what is happening to me I learned that my tumor is on the RIGHT side of my head, not the LEFT. (Duh!) That is why DOCTORS read MRIs and not patients. The way I looked at the scan was from a completely different perspective. I saw it as looking at the back of my head, but it was the front. (I told the P.A. -- "oh no, now I need to correct my blog" and he laughed and suggested I have a medical editor). So, now it all makes more sense -- the mass is pushing in on my right hemisphere and had finally "crossed the line" so to speak into coming into contact with my "motor strip" in the middle, and squeezing my left hemisphere. This has caused the seizure activity on the left side of my face. Now I wonder if it was the cause of those years of migraines, where upon recovery, I seriously felt brain damaged. (Though I think most migraine sufferers feel this & don't have tumors.)
I went to UVA yesterday to the Neurosurgery clinic & met with a wonderful team of people all ready to take care of me. Dr. Mark Shaffrey, who had known Ethan's dad, was everything I had hoped a neurosurgeon could be: up front, brilliant, dressed in scrubs with gray hair and bright blue eyes, very confident. All he really had to say to make me feel good was: "this is what we do". That's enough for me! The tumor is 6 cm. I'm not urging you to go grab a ruler and see exactly what this means, but let's just say I wasn't exactly prepared to see it on the MRI again yesterday. I may ask for a picture of it, but I had to catch my breath when I saw it again. (There's just no denying it -- it's so big and WHAT is it DOING it there?!) The good news is, it is not causing my brain to swell at all.
Dr. Shaffrey and his P.A. in Neurology, Gavin MacCleery, explained what they will be doing during surgery. I will not have my head shaved and I will NOT be awake. (Whew!) Since it is not a tumor growing within my brain or out of it, they won't have to worry about super-delicate brain surgery. They explained some technically squeamish things I will not gross you out with, but let's just say, I will have titanium in my head after this, but it's not magnetic so I will not be setting off alarms everywhere I go (sigh of relief). I will probably just have a U-shaped scar. There are risks of course, stroke, my heart stopping during surgery, but Gavin also pointed out your heart can stop while you're just walking down the street. (Good point.)
Monday at 2pm I will undergo the first part of all of this, where they will do an embolization of the tumor. *Not for the squeamish*: They will insert a catheter into my femoral artery (thigh) and effectively "steer" a tiny tube up through my body until the reach the tumor. They will inject some sort of "cement" like material which will begin to cut off the blood supply to the tumor. I will be asleep for this and stay overnight in the hospital. By surgery on Tuesday (which will probably take 6 hours) it will be (in my own words) "neutralized". This procedure is meant to control blood loss when it comes out. A complication could be it is in there very snug, but hopefully the embolization will prevent major bleeding. (This does gross me out, believe me.) My brain will recover from where the tumor was and just kind of stretch out and relax after all these years of pressure being exerted on it. (Ahhhhh...maybe no more migraines, depression, anxiety...but I won't count on it just yet). I kind of want to see this tumor but I don't think I will ask. It may really cause me some psychological trauma.
So Tuesday is the day. I will have sensors on my head from a "stealth MRI" so they can know exactly where to get to it, so I will have a few shaved spots on my head, but it is fascinating -- this technology.
My P.A. gave me what I call a "bunch of fifty-cent" words for this procedure so I could embellish my blog a bit, so here goes:
RIGHT SIDED STEALTH GUIDED
FOR RESECTION OF --
DURAL BASED MASS
It's nearly poetic.
I will be at UVA for probably 5-7 days. My first 2 nights are in the ICU and then they will check me out for weakness on the left side of my body and make sure I can get around. I was not prepared for Dr. Shaffrey's (wonderfully awesome) nurse, Kathy Oliverio, to tell me I would need at least 2 months recovery time (taking it easy, not lifting stuff like laundry, etc...). So, I am worried about the prospect of school and if I will need to take an incomplete. I know school is not my top priority right now, but I'm just thinking about the future to distract myself. It helps to do mundane things like, get the house in order, and not look at the big picture some days! It's so weird because I just found out about the tumor a week ago and by next week it will hopefully be completely gone.
I hope you all find this somewhat fascinating, because I surely do. I am scared. I was up early this morning just thinking about it, still not believing it, maybe being in denial. We have to arrange at some point to explain some things to the girls, but my folks are close and Ethan's folks are flying down too. We'll get to all of that.