In August of 2000 I went to my doctor for a routine check-up. I had been losing weight, and the doctor had done a blood panel on me. The cholesterol reading was really low. I explained to the doctor that there is a family history of aneurysms, and there are studies which correlate a low cholesterol reading, with an increased chance of having an aneurysm. So, the doctor ordered an MRI to be performed. Which I had the next week. Several days later someone from the clinic called me on the phone, and just like something out of the comic books told me: “well, I have good news and bad news”. The good news is that there is no evidence of an aneurysm, the bad news…..you have a brain tumor! I was then scheduled for a follow-up with the doctor. When I met with the doctor I expressed my concern about the manner in which I was told, even though I thought it was rather funny, it really didn’t seem very professional. It was someone at the front desk….they were not supposed to tell me…..I believe this person lost their job over this…..
Anyway, meetings with a Neurologist and more MRI’s followed. He wanted to perform a biopsy….I refused, if they were taking a sample, they may as well take the whole thing. So, I was sent to a Neurosurgeon for further testing and analysis….more MRI’s followed. The tumor was pretty big, and it sat on top of my cerebellum. Since I had suffered no symptoms as far as we knew, I was not in favor of removal. So the neurosurgeon arranged for MRI’s to be performed every few weeks. In December it had become clear that the tumor was absorbing more of the dye used in the MRI, but it had not grown. More MRI follow-ups were done. Then, in April I had an MRI, and the Neurosurgeon called me right away. The tumor had grown….a lot. He wanted to perform surgery the next day (a Wednesday), I had him put it off until Friday so my family and I could do a few things. I was not given much chance of walking or eating on my own after surgery, and survival was also very slim.
Well, the brain surgery (I can’t spell craniotomy) went rather smoothly, recovery in the ICU lasted more than a week, with follow-up hospitalization for at least another week. Actual recovery though, took a long time. Luckily, my wife was always at my side, and real helpful. In July I went to a public celebration in Minneapolis. While there we met a family pushing a wheelchair with a young man who had just had the same surgery as me. They had to feed him, and of course he couldn’t walk. We talked for a long time, boy was that scary! As it turned out, I was still recovering, and in bed with the TV on, when 9/11 occurred. I watched the entire thing unfold.
Subsequent to returning to work, I found that I could no longer speak to large groups, and my short-term memory was almost non-existent. When I walk, I certainly can do it, but I weave, a lot! And, I walk into things. My balance is almost non-existent on some occasions. I found that activities I used to enjoy, I could no longer do (well safely anyway). I loved to play golf, hunt, and play tennis….no longer. However, because I wouldn’t give up on myself, I found substitutes. That I believe is the secret to success after brain surgery, don’t give-up, do different things. You will find that you can be successful at those new things. Embrace them!