Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Know any good zombies? I have a donation.

Hi to all of my friends and family.  I love you so much, even the Facebookers I barely know.  This has the potential to be the shortest blog ever if all goes well for me in the next week or two.  I just needed to let people know.  I have been diagnosed with a brain tumor (I know, I've heard Arnold's voice in my head over and over since last Thursday: "It's NAHT a TOOMER"), but guess what -- it is!

The first question I have gotten from the few loved ones or co-workers I have talked to personally about this has been "How did you find this out?".  I'll start at the beginning just so anyone else out there who may have something similar happen will know to get checked out.

On January 19th I was out at the Timberlake Kroger talking to a co-worker of mine, Chad.  I had been having some twitches around my left eye and thought it was probably allergies.  While I was talking to him this sensation started on the left side of my face and traveled out to my eye, shutting it, pulling up on my cheek muscles, lips, tensing my neck.  I think Chad just thought the sun was in my eyes, but I thought I was having a stroke.  After about 45 seconds my face relaxed and I felt a bit out of it, but went shopping.  5 days later it happened again while I was getting scones out of the oven.  I ran to the bathroom and looked and it was just NOT right.  A serious spasm.  I went to one of those walk-in clinics that afternoon.  

The P.A. did reflex tests, which were normal, but because of the spasms and history of Multiple Sclerosis in my family (though never proven hereditary, my mom has it and my aunt died from it), she referred me to a neurologist.  I saw him a few days later, Dr. William Wallace, who also said my reflex tests were normal, and talked to me about headaches.  He diagnosed me with hemi-facial spasms, which are usually caused by a blood vessel pressing on a cranial facial nerve (usually you need surgery for this too).  He also ordered an MRI to allay my fears of MS and to see if perhaps a tumor could be pressing on some part of my brain.

Got the MRI this past Thursday.  Why did I think MRI's were silent? From television? I don't know.  What a strange sci-fi experience, some of the sounds were a bit akin to industrial music, which I like, so it wasn't TOO bad overall.  I was scheduled to see Dr. Wallace to talk about the MRI on Feb. 22, but the nurse said he wanted to talk to us in person and immediately.  UGH.

Walked into Dr. Wallace's office and there was my MRI scan on his computer.  He told me because of my lack of major symptoms, he fully expected me to have a normal MRI.  The good news, no MS! Also, no little cancerous tumors everywhere! BUT, as he showed me the scan -- there it was -- a huge mass on top of my left (need to correct) -- RIGHT hemisphere.  WOW.  Hello meningioma.  A tumor 5-6cm around which he said could possibly have been growing for 20 years! Can you even imagine this? Comparing sides of my brain, my left hemisphere is so squished right now, I was so sad looking at it -- my poor brain! 

The tumor seems self-contained, the doc could not see that it was invading my brain or growing into it at all, which hopefully means it is benign.  I got an EEG yesterday (it seems now my hemi-facial spasms are actually focal seizures) and a CAT scan which will show more detail about what this thing is made of.  I was set to see a local neurosurgeon today but she is NOT board certified yet, so I actually canceled that appointment.

My father-in-law worked for UVA Hospital for 10 years in the Cardiology dept and has spoken with numerous colleagues from Neurosurgery.  He has set me up with Dr. Mark Shaffrey, who has, in effect, taken over.  I see him tomorrow afternoon with a chance of having surgery by next Tuesday! They are re-arranging their schedule to fit me in -- I said "You are doing this for me?" to which his nurse replied: "Well, it's big, it needs to come out now."  I will know more by tomorrow afternoon about what will happen to me.  I have more thoughts on this but I will write more after lunch and another cup of coffee. 


  1. Cathy:

    I'm praying for you and your family...You all will get through this..I'm here (virtually) for you if you need to chat...my thyroid cancer diagnosis was swift and treatment even faster. Hopefully it will be the same for you...take care, hold on, and breathe...you can do this...you are so much stronger than you even know...you will soon see that!!!


  2. Cathy, you hold on to your strength and optimism with both hands. I will be praying for you and your family. Know that you'll be in my thoughts from here on.

    Sending you serious Wonder Woman vibes,

  3. Wow, Cathy. I'm impressed that you have the calm and composure to write it all down. I imagine there's some screaming crazies going on somewhere inside you. I'll be sending prayers and thoughts your way and checking in to see how you're doing!

    Karen in Florida

  4. CAP! It's Michele. I cannot express how scared and sad I feel for you. At the same time you seem to be holding amazing strength and composure here. I am praying for you and Ethan and your little girls, you will get through this. I am glad you are expressing your experience here and again you are foremost in my thoughts and prayers. Love Michele.