The Brain Tumor (part 3)

The night before the surgery I couldn’t sleep. I read articles from medical journals online about craniotomies and tumors. I felt pretty well versed in what was going to happen to me. We got to the hospital at 5:15 am. A nurse took my information and led me to a large room filled with hospital beds and other people who would have other surgeries that day. It was like a warehouse of sick people. After some struggle they got my IV in. This meant one of the things I was most scared of with this brain surgery was over. Whew. The assistant to my neurosurgeon came in and wrote Dr. Parney’s name in marker on the left side of my head. I was astounded that this was an organization method.

My bed was wheeled into the surgical theater. I was introduced to the handful of people who would be assisting in my operation. One more MRI was done before my head was opened up and loaded into the computer. I was given a bit of sedative while my head was prepared. When I awoke, my hair had been shaved around the site, all the nerves in my head had been numbed, a halo had been screwed to my head, and my skull had been sawed open. I remember hearing the saw while I was sedated. It was kind of like being at the dentist. Nothing hurt, but the noise was jarring. I let the team know that I was lying in a way where I could feel a lot of pressure on the screw in the back of my head. They moved me a fraction of an inch and I felt worlds better. I know I couldn’t really feel the screw in my forehead because I was numb, but I was highly aware of its presence.

The surgery lasted almost 8 hours. Dr. Parney used something to stimulate different areas of my brain and i would feel tingling in different parts of my body. When he tested my language, he would have me read from a PowerPoint and if I could not do it when a certain area was being stimulated he would know to be careful in that area. Most of it was pretty boring for me. There were times that I asked if I could be put asleep more. They kept me awake anyway. Apparently I had a small stroke at one point, so I think they wanted to monitor me closely. Once it was thought that the tumor had been removed, another MRI took place. Unfortunately more was found. Once they got it all out, I asked if I could see it. I expected to see something the size of a pea. It turns out it was the size of a large walnut. It looked like my brain grew a miniature brain, complete with tiny little veins. I was put into a sleep state while they bolted my skull back in place and stapled my skin. I woke back up still in the theater. Dr. Parney said that he kept me awake more than he had kept anyone else awake before but he didn’t say why.

I was wheeled to the ICU where I spent the night. I kept ice packs on my head for days and felt quite a bit of pain but I was able to leave ICU the next day and the hospital the day after that.




The Brain Tumor (part 2)

When I imagined a week without my kids, it sounded luxurious. Even if that week was spent in the waiting rooms of doctors’ offices. The vision of no one whining at me, fighting with me, or having to feed sounded like a vacation. Plus I’d have a hotel room with my husband! Woo!

I was surprised at how devastated I was in reality to leave my kids. I knew they would be fine. My mom and stepdad were staying at my house to watch them. They would be in school and on their regular routine. But as the trip got closer, I stopped referring to them as my kids and they became my babies again.

On the plane ride to Minnesota, my husband M had to sit in the row in front of me. The guy sitting next to him quite possibly shat his pants. The guy next to me was a very big guy. We had to put the arm rests up so he could fit. He slept most of the ride and kept falling over on me. I kept wishing that it was socially acceptable to push him over and snuggle up with him in a way where we would both be comfortable.

Rochester was interesting. I had never seen so much snow in my life. I couldn’t believe how well everyone drove there. Everyone lived up to the Midwest reputation of being incredibly nice. The Mayo Clinic is so huge and well organized.

We saw my neurologist, Dr. Uhm, who assured me that my tumor was indeed a big deal. While most people would probably be stressed by this news, I was relieved to hear this as I felt like the Princess and the Pea Sized Brain Tumor. I was referred to a neurosurgeon and had some tests scheduled to see what was up with my neuropathy.

When I saw my neurosurgeon, Dr. Parney, he did some neurological tests on me. One of them was telling me to write a sentence. I was shocked to discover that this was super hard for me. Since the sentence wasn’t for a purpose to communicate something and I wasn’t given a subject to write about, it took me forever. It was agreed that this was due to the tumor which was on my language cortex. Dr. Parney explained that the operation would have to done while I was awake so that my language and motor could be tested during the surgery so that nothing important would be removed. Of course being awake during brain surgery is scary to imagine but I decided that I would not want to sleep through something that important, control freak that I am. Apparently they don’t give the option of awake brain surgery to everyone because some people, even if they want to do it, are not suited for it. I have no idea why I, a person ruled by anxiety, was thought to be able to handle it.

The worst part about the surgery was having to be away from my kids for two weeks instead of one. I talked to them on the phone every night and set my son up with a Facebook account to stay in touch with him more. I did not tell the kids about my surgery as I didn’t want them to worry any more than they had to. I was anxious but not more than I usually am. I never cried or felt sorry for myself. I felt sorry for my mom and stepdad for having to watch my kids. I felt sorry for my kids. I felt guilty for abandoning the kids in my classroom. I felt bad for M, sitting in waiting rooms. I felt like the drama queen causing trouble in the lives of everyone I knew.

The Brain Tumor (part 1)

In September 2012 I had my 1st aural migraine. I was teaching in my 2nd grade classroom when my vision changed. It looked like a flash had gone off in front of me. I kept blinking to make it go away. Instead of going away, I lost most of my sight and could only see a little bit out of my peripheral vision. This made teaching extra fun. When my vision came back it had psychedelic wavy lines with it. I got these as well as regular migraines quite a bit after that.

During this time I also developed a transient left-sided weakness. My left eye would droop and I would have less strength and delayed reflexes on my left side. At the time my primary doctor had no idea why this was happening. Now my neurologist thinks it is either a certain type of migraine or an after affect of a simple partial seizure. Another delightful symptom I experienced was neuropathic pain. My primary doctor ordered a CT scan to check the blood flow in my neck and head and an MRI to see what was going on in my brain. We were both thinking about MS.

A neoplasm was found on my left frontal lobe. Even though I understood neoplasm to mean new growth, I did not recognize this to mean tumor. I got a copy of my MRI scan and could see something different in it, and while it worried me, I still did not come to terms with what it was. I went to a neurologist in Albuquerque a few weeks later. She was terrible. She decided that I was a drug addict and that was my problem. (I think it was due to my dreadlocks.) She wanted to review my MRI with a radiologist and get back to me. I didn’t hear from her for over a very long and nerve wracking month. Finally I received an email which said that I did indeed have a very small tumor but it shouldn’t be causing me any problems.

During this time I started developing more problems. My memory was not reliable. I started having difficulty finding words when talking. Teaching was getting harder and harder. A friend of mine whose daughter had a brain tumor a year before persuaded me to make an appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. In the middle of March I went on FMLA, said goodbye to my kids for what was supposed to be a week, and boarded the airplane with my husband. I was scared both of having an operation and of going only to find out that I was making a big deal out of nothing.

In this picture you can see the left-sided weakness in my eye.



After having a seizure in front of my family last week, it was discovered that I have epilepsy. I thought I just had dizzy spells.

I went to the ER afterward and got an IV of an anti-epileptic med called Dilantin. I have very narrow and superficial veins so getting an IV is always an adventure. After they gave up on my arms, a doctor tried to put an IV in my neck and failed TWICE. Finally a different doctor came in and used an ultrasound to put an IV in my arm close to the bone. It went well even though I accidentally looked at the 5-6 inch needle, which freaked me out.

The Dilantin was started and I lost my mind. No one warned me or my husband that I would hallucinate. I started hearing metallic bugs swarming around my ears. The stripey curtain began to irritate me and due to the flashes in my vision, I only saw my husband’s skull when I dared to look his way. I knew I was hallucinating the sounds and visions so I really found the experience to be somewhat enjoyable. It was only nerve-wracking for my husband.

After a few hours I was released. I spent the rest of this week adjusting to the meds and having more seizures. It sucks. I feel slow and stupid after my seizures. I am confused before them. I can’t drive until I’m 6 months seizure free. It is uncertain whether or not I will be able to continue my job as a 2nd grade teacher in August.