Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gearing Up . . .

Hi All!

Kelly here. It's been a busy couple of days. Here's what you've been missing: Jeff's uncle, Tom Olmsted, arrived in Milwaukee yesterday. He is the Bishop of Phoenix, so he is used to extraordinary heat. It has been in the 70's here which is probably a real shock to his system. He visited with Jeff at the hospital yesterday and spent most of today at our house entertaining the kids while Jeff was in his various therapy appointments. The kids loved having him here and were eager to show him their their toys, friends (Hi, Murphy Boys!), and school.

Tom leaves tomorrow, but Jeff's brother Pat and his wife Tracy will be arriving from the Mediterranean and Jeff's sister, Michelle, will be arriving on Thursday. In the meantime, Jeff's parents and his other sister are here, so Jeff is going to be inundated with visitors. I hope he will be well enough to handle it. We just learned today that Jeff will be undergoing Gamma Knife surgery tomorrow to treat the other remaining brain tumor. The treatment itself only takes 15 minutes, but the preparation leading up to the procedure takes several hours. First, Jeff will be fitted with a "cage" that the neurosurgeon will screw to his head. (OW!) They will do this under local anesthetic because the screws are only supposed to penetrate the skin. They do not actually screw into the skull bones. (Small relief). The cage will completely immobilize Jeff's head. He will then have to undergo some more scans and an MRI to help the surgical team determine the precise location of the tumor and whether there are additional tumors worth treating. Jeff will then be sedated to further discourage any sudden movement and they will then make attempts to position him in "the Machine." When they finally succeed in aligning him in just the right spot, they will zap the tumor with an extremely powerful precisely-focused dose of radiation. When the procedure is finished, they will relieve Jeff of his "cage, " in much the same way my band relieved me of my lead-singing duties. (Bitter, you say? No. Not me.) They will then give him a couple of band-aids and Tylenol for any residual pain and let him sleep off the sedatives. He might be feeling better by mid-afternoon. However, he also might not.

In preparation for the surgery, Jeff had to undergo a comprehensive evaluation by a neuropsychologist. The radiation oncologist explained this testing is necessary because the side effects of radiation can include confusion, memory loss, and dementia. He explained that many people were undergoing brain radiation and then blaming their mental deficits on the treatment, when, in fact, they simply weren't as smart as they thought they were to begin with. Therefore, all patients have to undergo specialized testing so that the doctors can establish a baseline from which to gauge any future deviation. Fortunately, Jeff has a lot of real estate to work with here. He is a mental powerhouse. He could lose 50 I.Q. points and still be smarter than 99 percent of the population, so I feel like he's got a bit of a head start on the radiation. (Note to self: ask surgeon if I could get stupider by standing next to Jeff after he's been irradiated. This could be a problem . . .).

Jeff is, of course, taking the surgery in stride. He doesn't attribute his resolve in facing it to uncommon courage. He just says, "you do what you have to do." Dr. Mueller met with Jeff and I this afternoon to plan the surgery and commented again about what a great guy Jeff is and how positive and hopeful Jeff is. I think he genuinely believes Jeff can triumph over melanoma and it's reassuring to know that someone in his position feels that way. He told Jeff that he IS beating cancer. I hope Jeff is strengthened by the doctor's confidence in him. Jeff said he thinks he will sleep well tonight and he is already planning to go to physical therapy tomorrow afternoon. (!!!) He is only marginally concerned that the doctor will inadvertently zap that part of the brain that regulates bladder control or an irresistible desire to end all of his sentences with an impassioned "Indeed!!" But, I think that if this brain surgeon is any good he'll just kill the part of Jeff's brain that is telling the melanoma cells to proliferate and put an end to this crap once and for all.

Otherwise, Jeff continues to improve daily although use of his leg has been very slow to return. His arm is a real team-player and is doing better each day. Aubrey and Regan went with Jeff's dad to the hospital today to sit-in on Jeff's afternoon physical therapy and occupational therapy sessions. I'm sure it is reassuring to them to see his progress and how motivated he is by improvement.

Finally, Jeff's friend Brendan came all the way from Peoria, Illinois to visit tonight. Jeff was very happy to see him and I'm grateful to friends who have made such extraordinary efforts to show Jeff how much they care about him.

Well, it's getting late and I have an early morning tomorrow. I'm going to wait at the hospital during Jeff's preparation and surgery. The doctor recommended that someone wait with him because there is a lot of down time and he will likely be bored. I don't know that I'll be any kind of help or comfort to him, but there is no place I'd rather be. Except maybe a Boston concert.

I'll report back after tomorrow's Big Event. Until then, take care.



Dana said...

Hello Jeff,

We are wishing you the best of luck (and sending a few extra prayers) with today's procedure. We know that you'll face this procedure with the same strength and courage that you've shown throughout this process.

Thank you for posting the recent family photo. It's easy to see where you get your strength and support.

Please tell your family "Hi".

Shalu & I are looking forward to coming for another visit.

Take care,
Shalu & Dana

P.S. You may have heard that it has been raining in Chicago nearly every day. Yesterday, I went for a run and returned with shoes that were soaking wet. Shalu could not stop laughing as I headed straight for the newspapers and started stuffing my shoes. (One of the lasting lessons from coach O'Boyle.) HA

Terri said...

WOW!! I hope that all goes well tomorrow. Sounds like he will have a big headache. What a trooper! I'd be peeing myself and hoping that they would inadvertently turn off the part of my brain that tells me when to pee, then in those situations I wouldn't do such things. I am right there with the doctor, I too believe that Jeff IS beating cancer. You know this just might be the way it goes. It might just be this hard of a fight to win. That's why it's called "fighting" cancer because it's tough, really tough, but, you get through it and say, " Man that was a tough fight, I can't believe I went through all that in order to beat cancer." But, in the end you beat it and can say that you survived it, then you write a book and cash in. Can't wait to read the next blog. Love Terri (lil sis)

aubrey said...

hey dad! i just saw you! lol :) anyway, i won't see you until saturday but i love you & will miss you!
love love love,
aubrey kate ;)