Yeah, I know, I know. I'm a little late on this post. But I've got a good excuse! It might be old, but it never goes away....
So where have been the last few days? Logan, these are the days of your life!
Tuesday - Feb 8th - Pre-Surgery Day
My "big sister" and I arrived at Cedars-Sinai early for all of my pre-surgery appointments. Initially I met with Dr. Samadi who was in charge of testing me to make sure I was healthy enough to qualify for the surgery. This included an EKG, blood tests, and a chest x-ray. Given our tight schedule I only had time to sneak in the EKG before heading off to an appointment with Dr. Eliashiv to talk about the surgical brain mapping. With her and her cohort I went through a quick test to set a baseline of my "intelligence". She showed me lots of pictures that I was supposed to name, including a compass and a protractor (which I've been mixing up since I was a kid) and an accordion, which for some reason I couldn't remember (even though The Who told me about momma's squeezebox). Other than that I did pretty well. Well enough to use the mapping method as a way to determine which parts of my brain could safely be sliced. The next meeting was with Dr. Yu to talk about the procedure overall and what will happen afterward depending on the results. Dr. Yu and his co-horts were amazing. Seriously, I don't think I've met a surgeon with better "bed-side manner" than Dr. Yu. He's incredibly caring, explicative, kind, and patient. And he also shares a decent sense of humor. My first meeting with him definitely made me feel very comfortable in my decision to head down here to C-S. Well, that and the big Jewish Star on the building. You know how religious I can get. After meeting with Dr. Yu, it was lunchtime and then time to finish up with the rest of the medical tests. The final test (chest x-ray) was in the same location as the MRI that I needed to get, so we managed to pull two tests into one, bumping up the scheduled time for the MRI. This time I had a bunch of stickers adhered to my face (shown below) to spatially map out the MRI image for the surgery. Little did I know, this had to stay on me until I entered surgery. How sexy.... That night I managed to meet up with my dear friend "AE" for dinner and then sack out in preparation for the big day!
Wednesday (and Thursday) - Feb 9th - The "Big" Day
We headed off for C-S early that morning to register for the surgery. I was supposed to be there by around 10:15 for a 2pm surgery. As is typically the case, things took a little longer than expected. However, once I got checked in, I got to meet a few more of the surgeons and also got to meet Dr. "Bob", the anesthesiologist who's worked with Dr. Yu for over a decade. He was incredible. Very communicative, and hilarious. He described all of the positive aspects and the process that the brain mapping procedure went through. Unfortunately he also told me that it was impossible to video record it. There were too many people in too small of a place. There was a slight chance it could be audio recorded, but that depended on others in the room. Basically it was so small that he was practically going to be sitting on my lap. He liked that I was a physicist so he could explain in a little more detail about what was going to be happening. However, the reality of it wasn't quite so exciting for me. As with last time, they injected me with something to sack me out, and then I didn't remember a thing until I was woken up well after. I was told about how witty I was during the brain mapping, with questions such as "What date is Christmas?" to which I answered, "Well...I don't generally celebrate Christmas, since I'm actually Jewish, but if I were to celebrate Christmas, it would be December 25th." Apparently they've had similarly detailed experiences with previous physicists. We're so special (read overly literal?) After surgery I was moved into the ICU for recovery, and remained there for a couple of days. Mainly because the regular rooms were completely full and they couldn't transfer me out! They had a list of rules in the ICU that we followed scrupulously, originally being Midwesterners, but slowly violated as my stay there kept extending unnecessarily. I ended up getting more than one visitor ("big sis" and "AE"), and did "occasionally" eat some sweets for dessert.... While in the ICU, all of my doctors came to visit me at one point or another, including Dr. Yu and Dr. Rudnick who is an oncologist in the department. He, too, was amazing in his description of the procedure, the results, and the upcoming plan.
This is a good time to mention that what I went through was not and will not be a CURE. I'm saying this for myself as much as for everyone else, but realism is key unfortunately. Dr. Rudnick mentioned that for about 30% of the patients the vaccine has a wonderful effect in improving their long term survival, whether it's related to the vaccine on its own or how it improves the effectiveness of future chemo treatments down the line. In addition, so much more of the tumor was removed this time than last, making me very confident that I made the best decision possible. He mentioned that the entirety of the "MRI visible" tumor they removed will be used to make the vaccine, as well as being tested for its response to Temodar. They are also going to test some other cells to see if they represent tumor as well. They are doing a very thorough analysis of what's come out of my brain. More than I've been able to do having owned the brain for over 40 years! Both "big sister" and I agreed that this oncologist was one of the best I've ever dealt with. He explained things very carefully but with good logical background and little vagueness. I'm looking forward to meeting with him again. And while there are some disadvantages to leaving a single company, unified hospital like Kaiser, I couldn't feel better about my decision to be here at Cedars-Sinai with these doctors and nurses. They've all been incredible.
Friday - February 11th - Headed "Home"
I got permission to get released only a couple of days after the surgery, even though I was still being kept in the ICU (due mainly to a crowded hospital). This was basically the same as with the last surgery, except that personally I was doing much better. I was able to walk around with little pain or issues. My memory was much better than last time (yes, I knew how to describe the "tape measures" on my desk at work). And my appetite and understanding of how to handle medications was much better. I was also heading to a much nicer "home"! I cannot praise my cousins here in LA enough. While I'm generally keeping people's personalities as private as I can, my family knows these people well, and they are incredibly special. They have made this entire process completely possible. Even better, they've made it beyond positive. While this was clearly the right decision for this treatment, I cannot even imagine how challenging this would have been to try to pull this off without a wonderful, supportive family taking care of us. Of course, this also marks another time to thank my direct family, especially my "big sister" right now, for all that she's been doing for me day by day. The word "love" is clearly not enough to express how much this means to me.
Saturday - February 12th - Is it the weekend?
So where am I now? Well, I'm still healthy enough to bitch about my status more than I should be. So I guess objectively I'm doing really well, because I hate that I can't (yet) head out to go play ultimate or go bike riding or kayaking. I'm still taking lots of medications, including steroids (enemies beware) that are messing with my sleep quite a bit. I'm not super communicative yet, but working my way back. The current plan is to recover here at my "southern home" up until Tuesday when I have another appointment with the spectacular Dr Yu, and then hopefully will be driving back to my original (and somewhat crowded) home in San Francisco to meet up with my other wonderful sister "W" and my freighbor. For those of you living there, visits will of course be welcome! Though the timing and extension of them might be limited depending on how I'm doing (I am optimistic however!)
In other news, my family is still dealing with one heck of a month. My dad had a brain radiation surgery for a metatastic cancer he had a day after my surgery. His brain surgery went well, but soon after he was suffering from a challenging bowel issue leading to digestive issues. The latest news on that is that it's under control, but of course we are still concerned with his conditions all initially created by the stupid cancer. So, I'll remind you all that cancer really does suck! And there's still going to be an ultimate frisbee tournament developed to raise money to fight all kinds of cancer. A description of the tournament can be found at http://www.huckcancer.org. I am still hoping to be recovered well enough to play in it, and am also raising money for the cause, which is the Lance Armstrong Foundation (a really amazing group). Feel free to donate here!