An inoperable brain tumor?? What??

You can never be sure exactly what is going on inside your body.  Well, there are the obvious things, like hunger pains and gas….   But beyond that, it is impossible to really have a clear picture of how healthy our organs are, or how our blood looks, or exactly how things are functioning.  Of course we know when they STOP functioning, but what about when things are “okay”, but may not be perfect.

For example, what if your lungs had some spots that were unhealthy because when you were younger you decided to cave to peer pressure and a smoked cigarettes for 15+years……(I am talking about a friend here….duh), or if you decided to smoke Marijuana a couple of times just to “check it out”….ummmm duh,…..a friend again……. or maybe you even might have tried something harder once…..(FRIEND……….OKAY????…..sheesh).  We can’t look into our bodies and see what kind of damage these choices may have caused.

What about the people who have illnesses due to no fault of their own, but just because it is that way for them?  What about time bombs that are just ticking away like Cancer, or heart disease, or high cholesterol, or a stroke.  Just waiting until your guard is down to strike and cause havoc in your life and loved ones.  Too bad we can’t have some sort of see through window that doctors can use to see what might happen to us and our bodies so we can prepare.

My point is  that we never know what is going on inside us.  Maybe that is a good thing, maybe not.

About 4 years ago Bluebell began having headaches.  Every day.  All day.  They were worse if she coughed, or sneezed, or bent over to tie her shoes.  I made her go to the Primary Care doctor.  They sent her to a neurologist.  He ordered an MRI.  We were called back to the Primary Care doctor.  She brought us in, and told us she did not know what was causing Bluebell’s headaches, but they had found a “Tumor” in her brain while they were doing the MRI, and Bluebell would be sent to a Neurosurgeon for evaluation.

Then the Neurosurgery appointments began.  MRI’s, Cat Scans, discussions.  This was in December of 2009.  Bluebell was diagnosed with a Meningioma (benign tumor of the meninges), which was sitting right next to her brainstem in a very bad (inoperable) spot.  She had an amazing Neurosurgeon at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital: Dr. Piccarilli.  Dr. P. is a super smart lady, and told Bluebell that it was a very small (millimeters) tumor and we were simply going to watch it for a while.  Get MRI’s annually and see what it does.

I was shocked!!!! Really??

A tumor???

In an inoperable spot right next to her brainstem???

Only Bluebell could have this kind of luck.  We often joke, that when God created her, He mixed up lots of different kinds of health issues, and tossed them into her DNA, just to see how she could handle it.  We had already been through eye surgery, cervical cancer, a radical hysterectomy, benign thyroid tumor, lymphedema from the hysterectomy, a stapedectomy to correct her deteriorating ear bone……

I mean……. really???

An inoperable brain tumor??

So we did what we assumed everyone does in that situation.

We named the tumor.

Calvin.

He became her scapegoat.  Any time she did something and we got into an argument she said “Oops, must be Calvin.”  If she forgot something she would say, “thanks a lot Calvin”.  Basically poor Calvin was blamed for all her difficulties.  I almost felt bad for the poor little millimeter of tissue……   except that he parked himself right next to Bluebell’s brainstem….which is incidentally a VITAL organ….   If he had parked himself in a more accessible spot in Bluebell’s brain I would like him MUCH better!!!!

Bluebell's looks like this only hers is a bit smaller.  Not encroaching on the brainstem
Bluebell’s looks like this only hers is a bit smaller. Not encroaching on the brain-stem

Time went on and Bluebell continued to see Dr P.  After a year, Dr P decided that Calvin had grown just a smidge, and it was time for Bluebell to see someone else about Calvin.  A neurosurgeon who specialized in a particular procedure that could help either reduce Calvin’s size, or stop him from growing.  So she sent us to see a doctor at Riverside Hospital in Newport News named Dr Lesnick.  He is a surgeon who specializes in a procedure called Gamma Knife Radiation. 

Bluebell was scheduled an we went in at 6 am for Bluebell’s procedure.  She was given a twilight anesthesia cocktail which means she wouldn’t feel anything but would be alert enough to answer questions and respond to directions.  However, she wouldn’t remember anything, so of course I took advantage of that!  🙂

For the procedure they had to put a contraption on her head called a halo.  Then they buckle this helmet thing on in the machine and use a computer to pinpoint exactly where the radiation is to go.

 

Bluebell in hospital bed with halo on.
Bluebell in hospital bed with halo on.

To hold the halo in place so it won’t move they actually screw in into your skin in 4 places.  Two on the forehead and two in the back of the scalp.  Hence the anesthesia.

left side of forehead
left side of forehead

It was pretty much an all day procedure.  We didn’t get out of there until 4:00 in the afternoon.

It all went as well as they expected, and she was scheduled for a follow up visit in 6 months to do another MRI to see if Calvin was affected by the Gamma Knife.

The follow up MRI showed that Calvin had not grown, but he had not gotten smaller either, but Dr. Lesnick was very hopeful the procedure had worked.

So now Bluebell goes in every year to have an MRI done to see how Calvin is doing.  In May it will be time for her annual visit to check on Calvin.  Since she remains asymptomatic I feel pretty confident the Gamma Knife stopped him in his tracks.

I will say that one of the most touching moments I had during this entire situation was during a visit with Dr Lesnick.  I told him how grateful I was that a doctor of his prominence made this procedure available to those of us who use government healthcare insurance (Tricare) because I know Tricare does not reimburse doctors very well.  He responded it was the least he could do to honor people who served in the military!  Brought tears to my eyes!

I guess the moral of the story is that you never know what life will throw your way, and in the big picture we just do the best we can and keep marching forward to face the challenges head on.

Literally, in Bluebell’s case.  So Calvin is here to stay because he is in a place that no surgeon can get to.  He is a part of our life, and he is going to stay right where he is.

Best friends are awesome

You know people say that your best friend is the one who is supposed to know you best, be able to comfort you, be there for you etc etc etc.  Blah blah blah.  I think your best friend is the one who you can laugh at when they fail down, and then help them up, who you can be honest with and tell her that sweater is ugly.  THAT is truly a best friend. This is a conversation I had last year with my BFF The NewYorRican!

I am taking 4 classes this semester and one of them is Abnormal Psychology.  My assignment is to interview 5 people about their attitudes towards people with Mental Illness and then write a one page paper essay about my findings.  I have been trying to interview my best friend The NewYorican for a few days, however, she and I have been going in different directions and I keep missing her.
Last Friday The NewYorican dropped off her kids, Little Man and Fairy when she had an early morning doctor’s appointment.  I noticed Little Man had a stuffy nose and was sniffing a lot. When I dropped off Fairy and Little Man at school that morning,  I made sure Little Man had some tissues in his pocket, and promptly forgot about it.

Yesterday, I finally pinned her down and she said she would walk over to my house after I returned home from work so I could interview her.  She had to come to my house because not only were Little Man and Fairy home sick from school, but her older daughter Sparkle was home sick also.  We had a text conversation before she came over and this is how it went:

Me:  I am home now. Come on over for coffee.

NYR:  Ok.  Be right over.

Me:  Oh, make sure you spray yourself down with Lysol before you come.

NYR:  Are you freaking kidding me?

Me:  I have a mask for you to wear when you get here.  Did you see Contagion?

NYR: Ummmm, fuck you, and no I didn’t see that freaking movie!!

Me: Well, I have a gown for you, and gloves too.

NYR:  Mad at you!

Me:  You’ll get over it.  ;-P

NYR: You are so fucked up.

Me:  Just come over and shut the hell up.

NYR: Hell no, did you just try to get ghetto on me?

Me:  I didn’t try…I succeeded.  Just get your ass over here.

NYR: Ok, but remember I am tougher than you.

Me:  True, but I can run faster and have more endurance…..

THAT is why I love The NewYorican.  Best friends are the best.  Remember she was willing to ride in a car with me when I was twitchy, and ALWAYS has my back.  Even if it is because she is chasing me to kick my ass!

 

A good friend will be there for you when he breaks up with you. A best friend will call him and whisper, “Seven days…”
A good friend helps you up when you fall. A best friend keeps on walking, saying, “Walk much?”
A good friend helps you find your prince. A best friend kidnaps him and brings him to you.
A good friend will ask you if you’re okay when you’re crying. A best friend will laugh at you and say, “Haha, loser!”
A good friend will offer you a soda. A best friend will dump theirs on you.
A good friend will sit at the side of the pool with you at that time of month. A best friend will throw you a tampon and push you in.
A good friend gives you their umbrella when it rains. A best friend takes yours and yells, “Run, bi***, run!”
A good friend will help you move. A best friend will help you move the bodies.
A good friend will bail you out of jail. A best friend will be in the room next to you, saying, “That was awesome! Let’s do it again!”
A good friend has never seen you cry. A best friend won’t tell anyone else that you cried.
A good friend asks you to write down your number. A best friend has you on speed dial.
A good friend will leave you behind if that’s what the crowd is doing. A best friend will kick the crowd’s butts for leaving you.
A good friend knows a few things about you. A best friend could write a very embarrassing biography on your life story.
A good friend tells you that she knows how you feel. A best friend just sits down and cries with you.
A good friend will help you learn to drive. A best friend will help you roll the car into a lake so you can collect insurance.
A good friend will watch your pets when you go away. A best friend won’t let you go away.
A good friend will hide you from the cops. A best friend is probably the reason they’re after you in the first place.