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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Early Blog #7 (The One with the Llamas)

Almost done posting my old blogs. This is easily one of my favorites. This was written over two years ago:

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2009 8:03 AM, EDT

This morning (Tuesday) I still woke up first, but I was smart. Last night, MJ helped set out my morning comfortable outfit right next to the bed. Noah's pills were sorted and ready to go in a dish. I had located his Kong toy and had that set out already too, filled with peanut butter. So when I arose at 7am, I walked carefully downstairs, retrieved the paper from the front porch, took care of Noah without needing to look for anything, and went straight to the couch to lie down, do the crossword, and begin typing this without getting dizzy.

I am starting to love this journal, finding it is a way to put myself back together after such a scary journey. Nothing but down-time, nothing to do, and nothing you are SUPPOSED to do is a new experience for me. Again, it is the little things I must let go of for the time being, and it gives me a new clarity about my big picture. I don't fret about the second-by-second unfolding of my life right now.

The few days leading up to the surgery are still fresher in my mind than the days after the surgery. From midnight to 3:30am on Thursday, October 1, I had eight different MRI tests. A few hours later, at 8am, I got the call with the news about the "mass" under my brain, and surgery was quickly scheduled for the following Monday due to the tumor's size and how quickly things were changing with my vision.

With nothing but a few facts to chew on and an Internet connection, I naturally spent the following days secretly googling everything I could find. Googling things you barely understand is bad for your health, and it is also how bad political blogs get started, by patching together bits of truth that don't quite match.

My biggest fear was there was some kind of conspiracy about the simple nature of the operation. The removal was supposed to come out through the nose (which it did) but I worried incessantly that something would go wrong. The tumor was already unusually large for the area. It wouldn't fit out my nose. They would have to do an emergency craniotomy and cut the front of my forehead off, push my brain to the side and retrieve the tumor that way (the way it used to be done). I had nightmares about this.

When I arrived on Monday for pre-op, the first thing I was given at check-in was a standard sheet to sign where the top had been filled out in handwriting with the procedure I was agreeing to. The sentence read, "Transphenoidal approach and craniotomy for tumor removal."

Being a stickler for spelling, I did not appreciate (right off the bat) that "transsphenoidal" was spelled with only one "s." On top of that, why was a craniotomy mentioned? My nightmare was unfolding before me. As I glared at the sheet, someone approached me and asked for me to come out of the waiting room and into pre-op.

I said, "I have a question, and this is a big one. It says 'craniotomy' on this form I'm supposed to sign. That's where they cut your head completely open. They didn't tell me that."

The raucous waiting room fell silent around me like in those old E.F. Hutton commercials. MJ, who hadn't seen this yet, looked up from her book.

"Don't sign it yet. You can talk to the nurse about everything and have ALL your questions answered."

"Okay," I said. I was completely ready to bolt, go home and start over again with another opinion, but I saw no harm in walking to pre-op and talking further with someone more knowledgeable.

I was escorted to a private cubicle surrounded by curtains and sat upon a comfortable hospital bed with pillows. I took my clothes off, put on a hospital gown and waited, the unsigned form clutched in my hand.

A friendly middle-aged nurse entered, bearing a wide smile and nurturing eyes. She said, "I understand you have some questions, and we can talk about anything you want, for as long as you need."

I explained my concern for the word "craniotomy." I was not ready to have my head sawed open. No way.

"Well," she began, "a 'craniotomy' is actually a broad term for anytime they go inside your head. You are having a transsphenoidal approach, going in your nose. They have to make a tiny puncture to a small eggshell-thin skull bone in the back of your sinus cavity. Because of that little puncture needed to go inside to get the tumor, it falls technically under the BROAD term"—she held her hands far apart—"for 'craniotomy.' It's just a term."

She spoke so carefully, smiling all the time, looking so deep in my eyes.

I flapped the paper in front of her. "This doesn't mean they're going to cut my forehead off?"


I trusted her. We talked about other things. She asked me questions about medicines I took, whether I smoked, drank, used recreational drugs, feared for my safety at home, and general questions about what kind of life I led. I felt better. I signed the form. She brought my wife in to sit with me and began setting up an IV.

The anesthesiologist made an appearance and asked me questions. A lot of questions about what would make me comfortable during the wait.

I cut him off with, "Look, anything you want to give me is FINE with me."

He made his hand into the shape of a toy gun, playfully pointed it at me, and squeezed his thumb trigger while smiling. The nurse left with him and in a few minutes she was back holding a syringe.

"Fentanyl," she said, and put some into my IV.

I didn't know what this was, but it sounded good. I was still nervous, even if the conversation had calmed me down. In a minute, I was flush with euphoria. I wanted to hug everyone in the world. I was so happy! Love was everywhere, big red hearts popping out of the walls.

A friend had also joined us by now, and the four of us rejoiced, laughing about things, about the mysteries of life, how little we were when you compared that to the size of the universe. It was the best time of my life.

"We should totally buy a boat!" I exclaimed. "We could all live in a boat from now on. All four of us from now until forever. Why not?"

"Sounds great."

"With llamas," I added. "No one ever thinks about a boat with llamas."

MJ said, "You could scrape them in the winter to get wool to make sweaters if it got cold."

"Yes!" I exclaimed. "It's so OBVIOUS! We could all live on the boat with the llamas and make sweaters!" I eyed the syringe now sitting atop my blanket the nurse had only half-dispensed into me.

"Damn, woman!" I added. "You holdin' out? You an' me gonna get hooked up after this, you dig? You gonna be my CONNECK, ya hear?" I pointed between MJ and the nurse. "You two get hooked up, okay? That right there!" I pointed again at the syringe.

The nurse picked it up and slipped it safely in her blouse pocket.

"Oh, man," I said and leaned back, dreaming of our life on a boat.

I wondered again about the word 'craniotomy' on the form. I thought it might be cool after all if they sawed my forehead off. They could put a hinge on top and I could flip it open and shut at will. At parties, I could say, "I want to give you a piece of my mind," then flip my head open to get a reaction. Fun, fun, fun!

In another short while the anesthesiologist came in again and gave me something else. The nurse also put in the rest of the Fentanyl. I laid back again, looking into the sweet female faces surrounding me. I closed my eyes in utter bliss. If I didn't make it out of surgery alive, I had already lived a blessed and wonderful life.

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