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Don't Mess With the Brain

By Abanti in Op-Ed
Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 08:33:27 AM EST
Tags: (all tags)

I know I used to have an account here, but like so many things I have no idea what it is.  Damn brain sugery...

Being awake for brain sugery is interesting but not fun.  Actually I'd describe it as terrifing.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  On my first Thanksgiving away from home I had three episodes of numbness on my right side that lasted about five minutes and were spaced about half an hour appart.  I thougt nothing of it until a week later when it happend agian.  Went to school clinic, they sent me to get a CT scan.  Later that afternoon they wanted me to go for an MRI first thing in the morning, so I did and the tech seemed concerned.  Later that evening I went to happy hour as I often do Friday nights with my freinds.  Before I got a quarter into my first beer I got a call from the clinic telling me to come in as soon as possible.  So much for beer...

At the clinic the doctor told me I have a brain tumor and called an ambulance to come take me to the hospital.  I felt rather silly riding in a strecher on an ambulance when at that point I was fine - apparently protocols must have kicked in.  They got me to the nerosurg ward and after considerable digging got an IV into me.  IVs and I apparently do not get along.  They said they were going to operate tomorrow and were going to send me for a more detialed MRI.  The MRI tech tried to inject the contrast medium into the IV but it burst - a common theme - so just used a needle.  Then when I got back to my room: more digging.  I hate IVs.

Next day (Saturday) my parents flew in.  The docs decided they needed more specialists for the surgery so posponed it until Thursday.  I had a meeting with the lead surgeon on Sunday.  He explained the procedure and that I would be awake because the tumor was at a difficult spot close to my language centers and control over my right side so they had to map out what controls what by stimulating and seeing what happens.  I went to lunch with a whole crowd of my friends and my parents.  I think my parents were rather overwhelmed (grad students in math: scary), but I had fun.  Then my sister arrived and I spent the next few days at home with family and friends, and a friend who had just left drove right on back.  I went with friend and sister to get my hair cut short before the surgery.  It went by fast but at least I got some time with them before my life changed even more than expected.

On Wednesday afternoon we checked back into the hospital, they did another CT, this time with magnetic stickers all over my head.  Then digging.  Next morning: 5 hour surgery awake.  More needles and so on.  They gave me a drug to make me forget but it didn't work.  The scariest thing was two siesures.  I think that was when I lost my language abilites and right side moter control, but it's hard to tell.  For a while after that everything is confusing.  The docs were dismayed - they thought there was minimal damage until the end.  I think they were also baffled.  Things never go as planned with my family and docs, were always supprising them.  And I continued to supprise them.

The pathology report was not good.  They initialy thought it was grade 2 of 4.  Relatively good prognosis: 10-15 years.  But after surgery they found it was grade 3: maybe 3-5 years with radiation and chemo.  Also at that point they thuoght the brain damage was more permanet, so decided to go back in and add chemo wafers, since the damage was already done, in January.

My father and sister had to go back home for a while, while my mother stayed.  I finaly made it out of ICU and into rehab.  At first I could not talk or move my right side.  I was in rehab most of December and first few days of January.  Slowly I regained control over my right leg.  I can now walk, althogh with a limp, but that's fine.  One night just before Chrismass I sudenly started talking a little bit.  I  gained back some motion in my arm.  When I could walk again I stubbornly refused to use the wheelchair anymore and made it a point of walking as much as I could, and it has paid off.

They changed their mind about the chemo wafers - too risky.  And I went home January 7th.  Home by the way, is Seattle.  I was in Davis (near Sacramento) for grad school.  I used to be afraid of flying, but knowing your going to die soon anyway makes you fearless.  I also was afraid of needles but those little needles used for most things are a piece of cake now.  Funny, I used to be such a wimp.  Except for my right arm I am now stronger than ever before.  I still have trouble talking and spelling, but it is improving.  I hope to go back to grad school in the Fall, but for now I am getting radiation and chemo from the University of Washington and spending time with my family.


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Don't Mess With the Brain | 49 comments (37 topical, 12 editorial, 1 hidden)
you have done well following surgery, (3.00 / 2) (#4)
by dakini on Mon Feb 05, 2007 at 10:10:46 PM EST

i hope you continue to improve..;o)

" May your vision be clear, your heart strong, and may you always follow your dreams."
An elderly lady had a snake in her head (3.00 / 2) (#7)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 08:32:51 AM EST

her doctor diagnosed it as dementia. It was only after she died that they diagnosed the tumour that killed her.

She was the author of the woman who wrote the book "Mindfullness".

When I was admitted to a psychiatric hospital in 1985, I was given an EEG and CAT scan, just in case my mental illness was a brain tumour.

Many apparent mental illnesses are caused by organic diseases, such as tumours of the adrenal gland. Another fellow in the ICU with me turned out to have ammonia in his blood that was making him catatonic.

Looking for some free songs?

s/author/mother/ (none / 0) (#8)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 08:48:15 AM EST

mindfullness indeed...

Looking for some free songs?

[ Parent ]

IVs and I apparently do not get along. (3.00 / 3) (#9)
by wiredog on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 09:20:58 AM EST

When I was in the Army I threatened to kill a medic who was trying to put an IV in after he missed for the third time. So he went and got the CW4 PA. Who hit the vein on the first try, and without me even feeling it.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

There's something about phlebotomy. (none / 0) (#30)
by vectro on Wed Feb 07, 2007 at 04:04:03 PM EST

It seems like it's one endeavour where there's no substitute for experience; someone who's been doing it for decades can just pop it in to any vein you choose without pain, hesitation, or spillage, but someone who's studied for years but not practiced much can still create huge contusions, lots of pain, and occasionally blood all over the place.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
Oh yeah (none / 0) (#36)
by wiredog on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 08:40:08 AM EST

When it comes to IVs, vaccinations, etc, give me an experienced nurse instead of a new doctor any day.

Wilford Brimley scares my chickens.
Phil the Canuck

[ Parent ]
how are you enjoying your new life (1.80 / 5) (#10)
by GhostOfTiber on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 09:36:40 AM EST

as a woman?

[Nimey's] wife's ass is my cocksheath. - undermyne

if you only got a few years left: (3.00 / 9) (#11)
by circletimessquare on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 09:42:36 AM EST

  1. engage in some perverted sex. don't hold back, dig dangerously deep into your fantasies and act them out

  2. make a lasting contribution to math. solve some famous hypothesis

  3. eat cheesecake. every day. every meal. why the fuck do you care about cholesterol?

good luck dude. and life is weird: maybe you'll outlive us all

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

Was is Galois who had the duel? (3.00 / 3) (#12)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 10:07:14 AM EST

Yes. A brilliant mathematician cut down in his prime by a duel.

But the page I linked says it was a "staged suicide".

Looking for some free songs?

[ Parent ]

Kill People (3.00 / 7) (#39)
by Xptic on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 07:55:33 PM EST

Seriously.  Get a gun and some ammo.  Teach yourself how to use it.

Go out and find some random asshole and kill him/her.  Leave a note that you will kill random people if they are acting like assholes.

Drive around the country and kill people.  Most serial killers get away with it for several years anyway.

As you get worse, do crazier things.  Hunt down CEOs that get million-dollar bonuses and kill them.  Even better, kill their family members unless they promise to give the money back to the workers.

Kill a few RIAA people and MPAA people.  Kill a patent attorney.

Go find someone who was mean to you in school and kill them.

Kill a Fox News reporter or two.

Just create a list of the worst people in the world and take them out.  If caught, drag it out in court by calling hundreds of people who think the guy was an asshole and then have your lawyer ask the jury to find not-guilty by reason of righteousness.

[ Parent ]

curiouser.. (3.00 / 2) (#41)
by metachris on Sat Feb 10, 2007 at 05:28:17 AM EST

not-guilty by reason of righteousness

[ Parent ]
IAWTP (none / 1) (#48)
by undermyne on Wed Feb 21, 2007 at 10:14:31 PM EST

+1 fp

"Coffee makes me go poop." thekubrix
[ Parent ]
as an almost dr (none / 1) (#43)
by mariahkillschickens on Sat Feb 10, 2007 at 12:08:39 PM EST

and hopefully someday neurosurgeon, i agree with this comment.

"In the end, it's all dirt."
[ Parent ]
Tell us more about your language trouble (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 10:16:51 AM EST

Were you completely unable to write and read, as well as hear and speak?

Neurologist Oliver Sacks wrote of a condition in which one can read and write and speak, but not understand the speech of others. One patient described it as sounding "like the wind in the leaves".

Looking for some free songs?

Understand, yes (none / 0) (#19)
by Abanti on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 07:30:06 PM EST

I was able to understand language, but it took a while to be able to say or write anything.  At first I had difficulty just with yes/no.  The condition is called aphasia and apraxia.  It has to do with finding the appropriate word and also figuring out how to say or spell the word.

[ Parent ]
Apraxia (none / 1) (#24)
by thankyougustad on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 09:40:31 PM EST

is more of a motor problem and therefor not a part of language itself. In other words, an apraxic knows the words he wants to pronounce, you just cannot articulate them correctly since his jaw and/or tongue is not responsive, whereas an aphasiac seems to be totally unable to 'conjure up' the wanted word.

No no thanks no
Je n'aime que le bourbon
no no thanks no
c'est une affaire de goût.

[ Parent ]
it depends on which part of the brain is damaged (none / 1) (#23)
by thankyougustad on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 09:36:50 PM EST

Aphasia is at this point pretty well documented phenomenon. Two areas are identified with being the primary language center, both located near each other and near the surface of the brain. Broca's area is responsible for forming meaningful speech; damage to this area results in an inability to formulate speech, though it can be understood. Wernicke's area is responsible for processing heard speech; damage to this area is responsible for the kind of Aphasia you describe.

Aside from those two major categories, Aphasia is pretty colorful as far as the varieties in which it comes: problems with nouns, excessive use of neologisms, inability to repeat a phrase. . . and interestingly some people have trouble reading and writing only. . .

Interestingly, children who suffer brain damage to these areas can recover. . . in some cases completely. . . as other undamaged areas of the brain take over. . .

No no thanks no
Je n'aime que le bourbon
no no thanks no
c'est une affaire de goût.

[ Parent ]
I have that (none / 0) (#44)
by kromagg on Sun Feb 11, 2007 at 05:41:05 PM EST

Anyway I sometimes seem to have a mild form of this. Other people speak but for the life of me I can't make sense of what they're saying. It doesn't seem connected to one of the usual variables (tiredness, alcohol/caffeine abuse,.. ) Was tested as a kid but they found nothing wrong with me.

[ Parent ]
My cat had a seizure. Most likely epilepsy, but.. (2.14 / 7) (#14)
by MichaelCrawford on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 10:27:36 AM EST

... could have been a brain tumour. The only way to know for sure was to take her to the veterinary college on prince edward island for... wait for it...

A CAT scan!

I decided against it, because the vet said she didn't display any other neurological symptoms.

Another possibility would be hepatic encephalopathy, in which a malfunctioning liver fills the blood with toxins that poison the brain. But a blood test for liver function quickly ruled that out.

She continues to do well, despite the occasional grand-mal seizure and frequent micro-seizures that cause her to twitch.

Looking for some free songs?

are you sure (3.00 / 4) (#17)
by raduga on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 05:48:30 PM EST

it was your cat?

[ Parent ]
holy fuck are you retarded (2.62 / 8) (#21)
by Tex Bigballs on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 08:22:48 PM EST

i can't believe people actually complained when you were anonymized

[ Parent ]
poor Bonita $ (3.00 / 2) (#38)
by th0m on Thu Feb 08, 2007 at 05:45:58 PM EST

[ Parent ]
My cat had a similar problem once (3.00 / 3) (#40)
by icastel on Fri Feb 09, 2007 at 03:43:16 PM EST

we were all watching helplessly as the seizure got worse and worse.  Then the thrashing started to slow down.  That's when we realized he had bitten into the fan's electrical cord.  Unplug.  No more seizure.

-- I like my land flat --
[ Parent ]
Your account was MichaelCrawford (3.00 / 21) (#16)
by debacle on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 03:49:06 PM EST

And your password was atinob.

I hope the lobotomy went well!

It tastes sweet.

Rehabilitation can work wonders. Hopefully you (3.00 / 4) (#25)
by moondancer on Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 11:36:33 PM EST

continue to get well.
**We are simple and we are free.**United Fools
Whippoorwills, Dusk, etc (3.00 / 2) (#29)
by magic curl on Wed Feb 07, 2007 at 06:52:21 AM EST

Thank you for writing about this. I like the spelling as is.

What do you want to do with your last few years? You don't sound frightened by the prospect.

oh my god (none / 1) (#42)
by mariahkillschickens on Sat Feb 10, 2007 at 12:05:57 PM EST

good luck to you :/ i'm glad the surgery went relatively well...
university of washington is a good place to be for brain stuff, at least. awake surgery is crazy. i've only seen one once and everything went wrong. people kept their cool and knocked the patient out pretty quickly but they couldn't talk when they came out of it... completely aphasic and just kinda odd :/

clarification - the stickers are opaque on ct and mri, that's why they use them... it's for navigation equipment that uses triangulation and gps stuff (aka brainlab or stealth).

"In the end, it's all dirt."

is was stealth (n/t) (none / 1) (#45)
by Abanti on Mon Feb 12, 2007 at 10:42:49 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Effects of Chemo and Radiation Therapy (3.00 / 3) (#46)
by wintread on Wed Feb 14, 2007 at 10:39:48 PM EST

A word from one who's been there...

Most people suffer terrible effects from chemo and radiation therapy.  The most common result is nausea and diarrhea.  When you find that you have trouble eating and keeping food down, try smoking some marijuana.  

Your doctor may offer to prescribe a drug called Marisol, which is supposed to be MJ without the high. It did nothing for me.  

None of the other anti-nausea meds worked either.  I thought I would actually die from dehydration until a friend provided me with some MJ. It had helped the mother of his (then current) girlfriend.

I believe it saved my life by reducing the nausea and stimulating my appetite.  I hope it helps you and others facing chemo.    

rad/chemo is going well, actually (3.00 / 2) (#47)
by Abanti on Thu Feb 15, 2007 at 11:56:52 AM EST

It seems to going well so far.  I had some brain swelling due to the radiation, but an increase in steriods fixed that.  I'm on a relativly new chemo drug called temodar that is fairly well tolerated, and so far seems to be in my case.  I guess I've been lucky - lets hope the luck continues.  Living a short life isn't all that bad as long as it's in good quality.

I'm glad you found a solution for your nausea - hopefully I won't have to, but it's nice to know there are options.

[ Parent ]

Good luck. (none / 0) (#49)
by fyngyrz on Mon Mar 26, 2007 at 11:32:10 PM EST

My lady just finished (2 weeks ago) a 7-week course of radiation. Breast cancer. The burns are beginning to heal, and her skin looks a little less like a boiled lobster. Tough for both of us; brain cancer, the idea of losing "self" rather than chunks of stuff the self rides on, is incomprehensible to me, so rather than claim I know where you are, let me just say that where I am, way, way down the scale of interference-with-self from where you are, is bad enough to make me feed very, very sympathetic to your situation.

Blog, Photos.

Don't Mess With the Brain (none / 1) (#50)
by hachetek on Wed May 16, 2007 at 10:36:17 AM EST

a1 a2 a3 a4 a5 a6 a7 a8 a9 a10 a11 a12 a13 a14 a15 a16 a17 a18 a19 a20 a21 a22 a23 a24 a25 a26 a27 a28 a29 a30 a31 a32 a33 a34 a35 a36 a37 a38 a39 a40 a41 a42 a43 a44 a45 a46 a47 a48 a49 a50 a51 a52 a53 a54 a55 a56 a57 a58 a59 a60 a61 a62 a63 a64 a65 a66 a67 a68 a69 a70 a71 a72 a73 a74 a75 a76 a77 a78 a79 a80 a81 a82

Don't Mess With the Brain | 49 comments (37 topical, 12 editorial, 1 hidden)
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