Eyes Wide Open

Wide open2

I have a few quirks.

About 15 years ago, I pulverized a bone in my hand in a testosterone-rich karate accident, and it could only be repaired through plastic surgery. Since anesthetic and I aren’t natural dancing partners, I convinced the anesthesiologist to administer a local that would only deaden my arm.

A side benefit is that I got to watch the two-hour surgery with eyes wide open. At first, they tried screwing the two bones together but, when the screw wouldn’t hold, they fixed the bones in place using metal skewers that ran the length of my palm, and poked out the front near my knuckles, forming tight knots.

Obviously, I’m not squeamish. But if you’re sitting near me and you blow your nose loudly in a crowded restaurant, I’ll try to freeze you with a stare that would make Batman wet his pants.

So I realize that I’m an odd duck. Which brings me to this point: when I learned that I would definitely need surgery to remove a benign but troublesome pituitary tumor, one thing I did to relieve my anxiety was watch the operation online. Well, not every minute of the 3-4 hour procedure. Just the highlight reel.

I know it’s a quirk, but knowing exactly what to expect helped me relax. When the time comes, I’ll be ready.

That time isn’t that far off. I met with my endocrinologist this week to discuss the results of my recent MRI. He knows that I studied medicine for a short time, so he delighted in loading the scans on his computer, so we could compare the two most recent, with the earlier picture taken in August.

Dry medical terminology and vague measurements suddenly became tangible. The tumor now is visibly much bigger, bulging this way and that. It’s almost as if the little bugger has a mind of his own. He lay perfectly still for a year, neither waxing nor waning, and waited until my back was turned — during the second stage of my experimental drug trial when I was tested far less frequently — to make his sprint to the finish. I’m seriously glad that we decided to scan when we did.

Suddenly, Wall-E, the rare little neuro-endocrine hybrid tumor, isn’t the perfect house guest. He’s growing upwards, climbing uncomfortably closer to my optic nerve and impinging upon my carotid artery. In another few months, I might have been partially blinded — or worse.

I need to have surgery soon. It’s not an emergency, but it is serious. I’m expected to go under knife and drill in the next month or two. This time, I won’t be watching.

Halifax is actually a leading Canadian centre for brain research, so I’m hoping this means that my neurosurgeon will be using the latest procedure. You see, just a few years ago, this surgery was done blind. In other words, the tumor was removed by a specialist who actually wasn’t able to see it. Cutting to the cutting, he or she would use scans to locate the tumor and guide his or her instruments.

Now that thought makes me queasy. But, if that’s the way it has to be, that’s the way it has to be.

Unfortunately, this operation might not give me the do-over that I crave. My terrific Pakistani endocrinologist — who no longer travels to the US because he is routinely detained by Homeland Security for hours — told me that my body has been locked into this pattern of poor health for so long that my condition is unlikely to change. So the migraines are expected to continue and the fatigue from missing hormones, which requires pills and twice-monthly injections, is unlikely to improve.

Que sera sera. I’ve managed a few extraordinary exploits in my past, and I have faith in my body and my strength-of-will to pull me forward.

So don’t count me out just yet. Even if I am a bit of an odd duck.

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11 Responses to Eyes Wide Open

  1. Pete says:

    I am optimistic that this surgery will fix most of your constant pain and release the Richard who can enjoy life and experience true peace. You deserve no less.

    I will keep in mind, how I blow my nose in future.


  2. Kim says:

    Me, I’d rather the person at the next table excuse him or herself for the nose-blowing, but if leaving the table isn’t an option, I’m far more capable of coping with one honking blow than a meal replete with sniffles and snorts. I blame it on my mother when I hand kleenexes to complete strangers. … It’s funny what the body holds on to, isn’t it? A doctor told me recently that absent surgery or medically supervised starvation, I’m unlikely to ever weigh much less than I do right now, my body has become accustomed and will hang on. I haven’t given up hope that I’ll prove her wrong, and I’ll hope the same for you, that brain retraining is possible.

  3. Laurel says:

    Good luck, Richard! Since I am NOT a neurosurgeon, what I think doesn’t really matter all that much. But I don’t see how removing the tumor won’t improve your quality of life. Just the reduction of pressure should help the headaches, or so it seems to me. I wonder if the surgeon isn’t trying to keep your expectations low so you won’t be disappointed if you wake up in recovery and everything isn’t miraculously perfect.

    Our bodies can do a lot more than we credit them for, especially with a positive outlook. I vote for EXPECT THE BEST, especially if you are prepared to work for it! It might be a gradual improvement, but if your body has been trained to its current condition, surely it can be retrained to a more optimal one once you clear the obstacles. Set stretch goals a smidge farther than your docs tell you to expect. Even if all you do is visualize your goal, like a whole week without a headache, it does something to all those healing chemicals that gets them excited and busy doing their jobs.

    I might sound like a granola whacko, but I have seen people do amazing things by simply refusing to accept the limitations of medical science.

  4. j a zobair says:

    I’m glad to hear you sounding so confident going into this. I think information is power, and I’m glad you have it.

    (I do laugh at your drs willingness to share information. Once a doctor hears that I am a lawyer, they try to say AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE. Good thing I like to ask leading questions.)

    I agree with Laurel–how could you not feel better? The pressure will be gone and also? You will know the tumor is gone. I think that “knowing” will lead to a lot of wonderful things for you.

    Too bad you can’t be awake and live-blog the procedure for us all. I’m sure your commentary would be priceless. ;)

  5. With Lurch and Jaz snogging on you, you don’t need any snogging from me. But I’ll second Jaz’s suggestion that you blog about the experience, if not during the procedure, at least before and after. For the edification of those who follow.

  6. Kristina says:

    Duuuude, when are you going to paint that office? HIDEOUS.

  7. Melanie says:

    I wish I could like comments,

    What they all said. :)

  8. I can’t look at a blood blister without getting squeamish. So, basically, you are like a superhero to me. Hopefully your superhero powers guarantee that the operation is a success and takes care of all the crap that you have been bravely dealing with.

  9. Jennifer Fleck says:

    Richard We won’t tell God how big our mountain is, but our mountain how big our God is. God does miracles…uh, every day. I am confident I read this today for a reason. You are going to prevail my friend. And you don’t have to believe. I will for you. Be strong buddy and be patient.

  10. I won’t be counting you out soon my friend. Strong like bull, right :-)

    If I ever come into money I’m gonna buy your old domain – however much it takes, even if you don’t want it – just so I can erase the thought of its current use.

    And I don’t think it’s so odd. When Adam was scared about seeing a doctor when we (correctly) thought he had appendicitis, I went online and described the procedure. He was so calm that when he got to the ER and the doctor braced for the bad news, Adam said, “yeah I know, it’s appendicitis…. are you going to put me under with something in my I.V. or are you going to use gas?”

    The doctor checked his chart and asked, “Are you four?”

  11. Stacy says:

    Hi Richard, I just heard about this. I’m sorry to hear it, but I’m heartened to hear the tumor is both benign and operable (though it still sounds pretty dangerous). Thinking of you …

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