Wednesday, 5/14/2008: Poke, Poke, Poke

The narrative is going to jump around a bit here, for which I apologize. I’m going to fill in the events of the weekend and the days following as soon as possible, but for now it’s more important to keep everyone as up-to-date as I can.

The bottom line from last week’s CT scans and MRIs was simple, if incomplete: there’s a mass in the left temporal lobe of my brain that doesn’t belong there. Odds are that it’s some kind of tumor. One possibility is that it’s an oligodendroglioma. This would be good news, because oligodendrogliomas tend to feature a chromosome deletion that renders them particularly vulnerable to chemotherapy. Another possibility is that it’s an astrocytoma, in which case prospects are not as good.

(Have I mentioned lately how demented it feels to talk about all of this when I feel as fine as I do? It does. Thank you. Moving on…)

Having reached the limits of what could be determined using non-invasive scanning, the next step was to take a small biopsy of the mass to determine its characteristics; that’s what happened yesterday. I was scheduled as an “add-on” at Stanford, which basically meant waiting by the phone for the word to be given. When it was, and sooner than expected, we headed north in my father’s rented car.

The first order of business, once there, was another MRI, this time with little saline-filled discs affixed to various points on my skull as reference points. Then to pre-op, where I changed into the airy gown and met with various members of my “team”: anesthesiologists, nurses, interns, etc. Everyone was incredibly, unfailingly, courteous and a pleasure to deal with.

With the preliminaries out of the way and a quick wave goodbye to my parents, I was wheeled off to the operating room. I was transferred from the gurney to the table, had a second IV line started in my forearm, caught a glimpse of what I presume to be my own skull-content on an overhead wide-screen monitor, and then fell prey to anesthesia’s usual sneakiness.

I awoke a couple of hours later, around 3:00 pm or so, being wheeled past my parents and into a recovery room. At that point there wasn’t much to do besides wait to come back to myself. If I understand correctly, a “frozen section” was performed almost immediately on part of the sample, and the very preliminary results suggest oligodendroglioma. However, there is more, and more detailed, analysis, particularly on the chromosomal level, remaining to be done: those results should filter in in the next day or two.

At any rate, because my surgery had taken place early enough in the day, I got to go home rather than spend the night in a hospital bed, which was a definite plus. I passed on the offer of a wheelchair to take me to the door — I’ve never quite seen the point, since you have to start walking sometime — and instead made my way out under my own power, with a parent on either side.

I slept surprisingly well. The hole in my skull hurts remarkably little, and in fact the biggest impediment to sleep turned out to be the fact that the anesthesia drugs seem to shrink your bladder to the size of a grape. You get up thinking you’re about to unleash Niagara, pad over to the toilet, and then… nothing. Or at least nothing epic. Dribble, dribble, dribble, and back to bed. Lather, rinse, repeat. So it goes.

Anyway, I’m up now, and likely to stay that way for a little while. There’s no further surgery scheduled at the moment; for now we wait for the biopsy analysis results to arrive. Aside from a little residual soreness at the point of incision, and the fact that the roof of my mouth feels slightly sandblasted, presumably as a result of intubation, I feel pretty good. The day is supposed to get blisteringly hot, so I think I’ll go for a walk with my mom before temperatures get too far out of hand.

8 thoughts on “Wednesday, 5/14/2008: Poke, Poke, Poke

  1. I know I don’t have to say it, but, somehow, typing the words make it more *real*.

    You’re in my thoughts pretty much every minute of the day.

    Love you.


  2. So, this hole in your head… Can you use it to store things? Not like pens (who still uses manual writing implements?), but… I don’t know… small snacks? Your car keys? Or is my sense of scale way off?

  3. Naw, man. It’s friggin’ tiny. (I haven’t actually seen it yet, since I’m waiting until tomorrow to take the bandage off, but the metric I’ve been cited is “about the size of a pencil eraser”, maybe two.)

    I’m going to be lucky if I can get a Micro USB connector to fit in there.

    Maybe later, when they take out the tumor, I can have them fill the hole with flash, at least until that memristor-based stuff is ready. Then I could emulate my idol, Larry, the minor character from Neuromancer: “Molly’s got a rider, and Larry doesn’t like that…”

  4. All together now….

    Molly’s got a rider, and Larry never sleeps at night.

  5. Okay, here’s a plan. You take some skull glue, a really small battery and an LED, and you embed a glowing red LED light into your skull.

    Forget the terminator jokes, you’ll never have to hunt for a reading light again.

  6. Why didn’t they just cut the tumor out while they were in there? Are you going to have to fill the hole with gauze while it heals? I hope your brain will be ok!

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