Brain Tumor

BACKGROUND

After Tiptoe was born, M got a clot in her leg.  The clot was dealt with normally through a regimen of blood thinners.  However, shortly after that, M and I began noticing that she was having problems connecting thoughts to language.  She was also having intermittent problems remembering how to do routine tasks (like how to properly fill out a check).  As the years went on, these problems grew worse, but we didn’t know to what to attribute them– stress, sleeplessness, etc. 

M had gastric bypass surgery last May.  This helps her lose weight by preventing her body from absorbing a lot of the food she eats.  She has lost about 80 pounds since May and looks great.

PRESENT

A couple months ago, M began having numbness in the side of her face and in the ends of her fingers.  These episodes of numbness would last only about a minute or two, and were not otherwise inconvenient.  The numbness got progressively more intense, however, and her speech began to slur during the episodes.  She never experienced any pain during these episodes.  A couple weeks back she went to the family doctor, who scheduled her for an appointment with a neurologist on December 10.

Last weekend– Thanksgiving weekend– M and I took a trip to Williamsburg to go to Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens.  While walking through the folk art museum at Colonial Williamsburg, M fainted.  There’s about a 30 second gap in her memory, but she was conscious the whole time.  She was a little disoriented, and somewhat non-responsive, but she was able to walk to a bench and sit.  Within 30 seconds of sitting, she was back to normal.  (I was terrified, but she was okay)  She didn’t feel like she needed to go to the hospital so we didn’t.

Throughout the rest of the day, she said the right side of her body felt a little odd.  When we’d walk up hills, she noted that her foot dragged a bit.  The next day in church, as she was playing the piano, she couldn’t keep the rhythm with her right hand.  She made the decision to go to the emergency room as soon as we left church.

DIAGNOSIS

A CAT scan done in the emergency room found a tumor in the left frontal lobe of her brain.  An MRI confirmed it.  The tumor is surround by a number of cysts which are pressing down on the tumor and against the skull.  The pressure is apparently what is causing M’s symptoms of numbness, inarticulate speech, etc.  An MRI confirmed it.  The tumor covers most of her left frontal lobe.  According to the surgeon is regular in shape, with a number of “wispy tentacles.”  The tentacles may be other tumors, or they may be artifacts of the pressure.  The tumor is 5cm x 5cm, and goes into the brain tissue about 3 cm. 

The tumor appears to be very slow moving– it may be as old as 14 years.  This is one indicator that it is benign (i.e., not cancerous or aggressive).  However, the wisps may indicate it is (or has become) cancerous.  The neurosurgeons will perform a craniotomy to physically access the tumor and remove a sample of it for analysis.  During the same surgery, they will attempt to remove as much of the main tumor as possible to relieve the pressure on her brain.  After full analysis of the tumor sample (10 days or so), they will begin a regimen to completely remove it using radiation and possibly chemotherapy.  (Let me re-emphasize that we won’t know until the biopsy of the tumor is done whether or not the tumor is cancerous)

There are a couple complications for the surgery.  M’s history with blood clots has the docs on edge, so they are putting a filter in her inferior vena cava (near the heart) to head off any clots that may develop.  This surgery is not a big deal, according to the docs.

In addition, she is protein deficient due to the gastric bypass.  The protein deficiency may make it hard for her to heal from the surgery, so the surgeons want to get it up to normal levels before they operate.  We have a week or so to pack as much protein into her diet as possible– which means she may have to resort to protein shakes and supplements (which she hates).

Another CAT scan was done yesterday to make sure that the tumor has no cousins in any of the rest of her body; we’re still waiting on results from that, but the neurosurgeon was confident that we’re just dealing with the one in her brain.

We expect that the surgery will take place some time late next week, or early the week after, and that it will only take four hours or so.  After surgery, she’ll spend a few days in the hospital recovering.  She will continue recovering at home; full recovery from the surgery won’t be made for about three months.  And of course, depending on the radiation/chemo regimen recovery may take longer.

LOVE

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
  
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
— William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

We’re apprehensive– okay, I am apprehensive– but unshaken.  :smile:

We have a plan for moving ahead; we have an expectation for success.  We have great friends and families whose love we feel and whose strength we trust.  M is looking forward to hopefully having her speech capacity back– and that’s what we’re focusing on. 

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