Hi! Well, today I had the gamma knife procedure to eradicate the small tumor in my left frontal lobe. It was an interesting experience. It consisted of three parts: the attachment of a titanium cage to my head; an MRI; and the radiation treatment itself. The first part is the most exciting. Dr. Mueller, my neurosurgeon, oversaw the procedure, which is kind of like putting a stand on a Christmas tree. He fit the cage around my head and then screwed in four bolts--two in front, two in back--until he hit skull and got a nice secure fit. He said it would feel like having my head put in a vise . . . and he was right. Dr. Mueller kept me entertained the entire time by telling me about his favorite hobby: racing motorcycles on ice. I can't even imagine what that would be like, but he swears it's great fun. : )
They next performed an MRI to plot the exact position of the tumor, and then we waited. The hospital can perform only one gamma knife operation at a time so I had to wait five hours for my turn. Fortunately, it didn't take long to become accustomed to the pressure of the bolts, and I was able to relax in relative ease. I couldn't wear my glasses so I couldn't read or watch TV, but Kelly was there to keep me company. This was a real treat. With four kids, we rarely have the opportunity to spend so much uninterrupted time together. It was almost like being on a date!
Eventually, the time came to have the radiation treatment. They took me into a room and attached the cage to a frame on a table. Once the cage is attached to the frame, the radiation oncologist locked me into place so that my head would remain perfectly still. The gamma knife machine employs something like 220 lasers, and a physicist was on hand to perform the calculations that would make sure all those lasers were directed at the right spot. That's important: Dr. Mueller had explained to me before the procedure that whatever gets hit by the laser will die. "If we aim at tumor, we kill tumor," he said, " and if we aim at brain, we kill brain." Finally, everyone left the room. There was no noise, no puffs of smoke, no glowing bars of light. I just laid there for about 15 minutes, and then it was over.
Dr. Mueller and the radiation oncologist removed the cage and within five minutes I had the worst headache I've ever had in my life. It felt like those bolts had broken through my skull and were stabbing into my brain. If you've ever been in a hospital, you may be familiar with the 1-10 pain scale that doctors and nurses use to rate pain. This was the first time I ever described my pain with a 10. It was way worse than biochemo, worse even than back surgery. By the time they wheeled me back to my room, I thought I was either going to throw up or black out from the pain. Fortunately, the pain left almost as quickly as it came on. The nurses gave me a couple of ice packs and some Percocets, and within half an hour I was able to talk to Kelly again. I think my skull bones needed to pop back into place or something.
While I was dealing with my headache, Kelly attended my case meeting--a weekly evaluation the rehab doctors and therapists conduct for each patient--and the overall report said I was progressing nicely and should be able to go home without a wheelchair in 10 to 14 days. The physical therapist also said I could get a day pass for this weekend so I might be able to go home for a few hours. That would be nice.
I tried to provide a lot of detail in the above post because I thought some of you might be interested in what the gamma knife operation was like. I hope it didn't get too boring for you. Thanks for all your prayers and support as always.