Thursday, February 18, 2010

Right Sided Stealth Guided

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:


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.


  1. I am scared for you, Cathy. I wish you all the best. Beat that brain!


  2. STEALTH is right!!! Sounds like you have a fantastic group of doctors! Will Ethan be updating everyone following your surgery and recovery??? Donna

  3. You are a phenomenal woman now and will be new and improved after this. I am in awe of how you have come to terms with and made sense of this challenge in such a split second. I am praying for you ever day. Strength, courage, peace, and grace. Such grace...these are your gifts that you have given. Now Give'em hell, CAP!!

  4. Cathy, I am in disbelief. I am so sorry you have to go through this. My thoughts are with you and your family. Please feel free to contact me. You are in my prayers,

  5. I am TOTALLY NOT WORKING ON MONDAY!! Let me know if I'm allowed to come see you then. I can be there for you during the week as well. I'm off of work at just say the word chica!! I can bring something for us to do and pass the time with non-brain realted activity. I have to say...I am bummed about the no shaved head thing. This TOTALLY rules out the mohawk agenda I had!!

  6. Wow, this stuff is wild. A U-shaped scar? You should call it a horseshoe shaped scar and then it will be good luck. I find the "gross" stuff interesting.

    You do seem to be handling things well. I think I would be in a constant state of shock. It's all happened so fast. Wow. You ARE the woman. Go kick that tumor's ass with your steel-toe Martens.

  7. Ahhh...Cath. Everytime I read this little "blogger" of come those tears again -- shades of Jackson Browne, just for you. ;) But they aren't fearful tears, or worried tears...just "wish I could be there" tears.

    And on that note, technology is great isn't it? On so many levels. How much I relish that you can keep all of us updated in real time.

    So, I think the most wonderful benefit of all this nonsense (if you can call it a "benefit") is your amazing attitude throught this whole thing. Yeah, maybe it would have been different if you would have had more time to process it, but I don't think so. I believe there's a divine lesson to be learned here about what Cathy is really made out of. You're a rock, honey. Oh sure, you're sentimental and compassionate and possibly the most empathetic person I know, but under that mushy, squidgy exterior is a soul that has the strength of granite. How cool is that? With this new revelation and epiphany of resolve that you're armed with -- just think about what you're capable of accomplishing! What an amazing feeling that must be!

    LOVE YOU!!!!


  8. I love your friends, CAP. "Kick that tumor's ass" and Leah's "mohawk agenda"... HILARIOUS!!! Mostly, I couldn't agree more with Lynn - if I were more eloquent, I would've said it half as well as she did. You truly are a rock; you have incredible fortitude and the strength of steel. I hope you finally believe me; I think I've been telling you how strong I think you are for what --- 20 years?! ;) Don't forget to let yourself have your weak moments, though. You're allowed everything you feel. Love you xoxoxoMisha

  9. This is happening so fast.

    I love the poems. That Carver poem always makes me choke up, but reading it here, even more so. Carlyle and I talked about you at dinner tonight, thinking about our girls, and your girls. Feel our love.


  10. Do you ever wonder if you will act differently? Maybe you will be a great artist. "After Ms. Pitts-Desilvey's brain tumor came out, she began to create the now-famous..." Or maybe you will become an accountant like me (hope not, ha ha). I do hope the migraines and depression stop, but ya never know. Either way, we love you and are so glad that your families are nearby to help (make you feel good about the move??) and we send our love to your girls. Good luck, Cathy. Brain surgery, whew. You'll be fine, though, I just feel it so strong.
    Love, Eliz

  11. Cathy,

    I will try and get over to visit if you feel up to it by the end of next week? Can you ask Ethan to blog and give the "all clear" for visitors? If you need anything - Spudnuts, Bodos, another Steven Keane painting, just ask ;)

    Love ya!
    Sending you a BIG OL'HUG.