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.