This update is dedicated to Jeff's new hair-style, affectionately called "The Reverse Mohawk." I haven't seen it yet, but I hear it is fabulous. I'm sure you will all want one. Jeff had surgery this morning. He is now in the recovery room and the neurosurgeon told me to go home for a couple of hours, eat, and take a shower (hey . . . wait a minute!! I can take a hint.) So, I'm taking a quick break to update all of you on Jeff's progress. Jeff underwent a right craniotomy at approximately 8:30 a.m. this morning. I arrived at the hospital at 6:00 a.m. to see him off before his surgery. He was simultanously distraught and resolute--knowing surgery was necessary, but also fearing the outcome. We cried and said what we could muster the strength to say, but as they wheeled him away on his bed he was focused and brave. The procedure was performed by our Superstar neurosurgeon, Wade Mueller and his team of high-kicking Surgeonettes. Or maybe some other doctors and nurses. The surgery was complete around 11:30 a.m. and the doctor told me the results were good and that things went "just fine." Dr. Mueller said that he shaved Jeff's head himself and I wondered to myself why I should pay $2,700 for a haircut college roommates routinely give each other for free. As if reading my mind, Dr. Mueller informed me that he does several hundred such surgeries per year and that he does a fair amount of melanoma resection. He is familiar with its ways and its fury and he believes that Jeff has what it take to beat it.
While it was reassuring to hear Dr. Mueller talk about the details of the procedure and it's anticipated success, it was even nicer to hear Dr. Mueller talk about what a "great guy" Jeff is and how Jeff inspired his team to do their best work. He said that the pre-op medications affect the brain in such a way as to allow patients to reveal their starkest selves and Jeff proved to be inherently one of the most polite people he's ever met. Jeff was entering the opertating room, chatting with the nursing staff, introducing himself. Dr. Mueller said it's patients like Jeff that make him love his job and that make it easy for him to do it well. He said Jeff is "full of light" and "really a very neat, very great guy."
Dr. Mueller explained that because Jeff is otherwise young and robust, he felt comfortable taking a very aggressive approach to the cancer. When he met the enemy face-to-face the melanoma revealed itself to be large and diffuse (like a web insetad of a ball). It was bleeding due to an abnormal blood supply. He explained that one of the unique and very interesting hallmarks of cancers is their ability to create their own blood supplies. However, because cancer cells are abnormal cells, they create deformed blood supplies that easily leak. He said that he not only cleaned out the tumor but that he also "grossly messed with its blood supply" thereby attempting to choke it off at the source. He also said that only subsequent scans will reveal how much of the tumor remains (if any) and that if any remains that can be further removed he will open Jeff back up to remove it. Jeff is tough enough to withstand another surgery and deserves every fighting chance of a cure. So, hopefully, he got all that he could the first time, but if he didn't he's willing to continue with a very aggressive approach to eradicating the tumor. He said there appears to be a much much smaller tumor above Jeff's left eye, but that it can likely be treated effectively with a Gamma Knife procedure involving extremely high dose, focused radiation.
The only downside to Jeff's surgery today is that he is likely to have some permanent impairment to his left side the extent of which remains to be seen and which will only be known for sure after the next few months. The doctor said that due to the location of the tumor along the sensory motor area and due to the diffuse nature of the tumor, he had to intrude upon healthy tissue to get everything he could. He said he is constantly cognizant of the balance between surviving the cancer versus the effect permanent impairment could have on quality of life and that we will simply have to wait and see. Dr. Mueller said "he's going to need some luck" but that he's pulling for us and will do everything he can to help Jeff.
So, in summary: Of the two known tumors, the doctor removed all of the large tumor that he could safely remove and he agrees that the smaller one should be addressed with Gamma Knife and whole-brain-radiation. Jeff will likely have some degree of permanent weakness on his left side with hope that it will not compromise his quality of life. He'll be in the intensive care unit for the next two days and then in a regular hospital room for a couple more or until he regains strength enough to safely go home. The doctor said he could be released as early as Tuesday if all goes well.
In the meantime, he will have headaches for two days and will then feel exponentially better after that. He will undergo CT scans and MRIs over the next day or two to monitor the bleeding in his brain and he will be closely monitored for seizures and strokes. His hair will grow back--but he will likely lose it again when he undergoes radiation treatment. The radiation treatments should be well-tolerated. The worst side effect may be some dementia, so if Jeff owes any of you money, you should try to collect it now before he conveniently "forgets" to pay you. Ha! On the other hand, if Jeff doesn't owe you money, you will soon be able to convince him that he does since he won't remember anyway.
I hope this information is enough to tide you over until later when I have more specific information for you. It is now nearly 2:00 p.m. and he should just be waking up in the recovery room, so I am going to sign off and go back to the hospial for a while to be there when he becomes somewhat alert. I hope that Mary can spend some time with him tonight. I know she is desperate to be with him and I'm sure it would be a comfort to him. I don't care how big you are, it's always nice to have your mommy!!
So, I'll continue to keep you updated and I'll return phone calls as I'm able (cell reception is terrible in the hospital!). Until then, take care and pray for Jeff's peace of mind and that his hope is renewed. It's been a very rough and trying week for him, and things are not going to get easier for a while. It will help him immeasurably to know that you are pulling for him.
P.S. Thank you so much to Tony Popanz for sitting with me in the waiting room. You made the whole ordeal so much more bearable for me and I appreciate it more than you will know. Your willingness to cut-short your trip to Door County is a real testament to the kind of friend you are to us and we are so glad to have you (and CeeCee and the girls) in our corner!
P.S.S. It has been exactly 7 months to the day since Jeff was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer. Weird.