Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Summer Without Brain Surgery

Ashley had an appointment with the neurosurgeon on Friday. Since finding out on Wednesday night that she had two brain tumors, everyone has been on edge – imagining what could be, what impact it would have, how we would all cope. Amy and I tried to talk about anything but the tumors, almost as if we didn’t talk about them, they would go away. While we wanted an explanation for Ashley’s increased seizures, this was not the explanation we meant.

The speed at which things moved once I was notified about the tumors only contributed to the anxiety. Never have I been able to get an appointment with a specialist in less than a month. The waiting lists for these scarce doctors are usually months long. But, I called the neurosurgeon’s office on Thursday morning, and our appointment was made for Friday morning. Neither Ashley nor I slept much Thursday night.

After fighting the construction and traffic to find a parking place at the Medical College of Virginia (MCV), Amy helped Ashley and me find the neurosurgeon’s office. Registration went smoothly and quickly, and everyone was very nice – a niceness I interpreted in my highly anxious state as pity. After a short wait in the examining room, the neurosurgeon entered, still in his surgical garb. He introduced himself and immediately went to reviewing the MRI images. He shuffled through them quickly, lingering on a few, and then stood up and said he would be back. As with everything else involved with this visit, I interpreted that to be a negative sign. I imagined him calling the operating room and telling them to start prepping for brain surgery.

He was gone quite a while, time I later found out during which he was trying to contact the neurologist, the person who had discovered the tumors. Unable to reach the neurologist, the neurosurgeon returned. He said he wasn’t sure that the tumors were the cause of Ashley’s increased seizures, and that he was reluctant to remove them with everyone thinking the seizures would cease after surgery. He said the tumors did need to be removed but that they did not appear to be cancerous – the first really positive thing I had heard since Wednesday night. I sighed deeply and began to relax just a bit. His game plan was to caucus with the neurologist and another ‘brain expert’ at MCV. He said if they could convince him the tumors were the cause of the seizures, he would recommend immediate surgery. If they could not convince him, he would prefer to wait three months, do another MRI, and then more than likely, go ahead and schedule the surgery. His lack of immediate need to remove the tumors went even further to help me relax a bit more. We all left MCV and went home feeling a tad bit better.

It was just a couple more hours until I heard again from the neurosurgeon. His caucus had happened and the consensus was that we could wait three months. So, although my concern about the tumors is still great, and although brain surgery is in the near future, we have the summer. Our family can enjoy all the vacations and summer activities we had planned, and perhaps enjoy them even more because we know what lies ahead. I’m sure my anxiety and concern will skyrocket again as September approaches, but for now, bring on the cookouts, the beach, the baseball games, and the swimming pools. As my friend Jane so wisely pointed out, “Having brain tumors is bad but having a summer without brain surgery is priceless. “

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