Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Demise of Mo Fo and his Evil Twin

After a night of tossing and turning, then finally dozing off late in the night, I woke with a start just after 5am yesterday. Paul and I quickly and silently dressed, I kissed my babies good bye and slipped out the door past Sheila on my couch. Paul drove the 45 minutes down to Hoag Hospital. I tried to catch a few more minutes of sleep but my eyes just stayed open, staring out at the sea of red brake lights in the morning traffic. Paul reached over to squeeze my hand, and all too suddenly we had pulled up to the recently built Advanced Technology Center at Hoag Hospital.

The ATC is a shiny new building at Hoag that houses a newer version of the Gamma Knife called the Perfection, as well as an MRI machine and state of the art exam rooms. On all 3 of my previous Gamma Knife treatments I had been wheeled back and forth around the main hospital for different parts, this time everything was within 1 small building and I knew almost every staff member. From my perch on the exam table I could see a reflection of the hallway, and soon I saw what could only be the Tish clicking her way in with my Dad right on her heels. Since I was a child and would accompany my Mom to appointments while my Dad worked, when my Dad showed up I would always feel a sense of relief. A deep trust in my soul that will always believe once my Daddy is here, everything will be okay. I realized I felt that way as soon as I saw the Tish as well.

Once I checked in things began to move quickly. My nurse for the morning, Tom, is also a runner and it was a great distraction to chat about running and different races we have done. He set me up for an IV and I felt the familiar urge to get up and run far away to a land with no needles. This time, I resolved to just breathe, and the IV went in without any mistakes or digging. Dr. Hseih, the anesthesiologist, came in and informed me of all the usual risks... that he was going to inject me with a chemical and I might never wake up, and asked me to sign a paper saying that was just fine with me. I signed and reminded him that during my last treatment I woke up to soon, he promised to work on that. I should really hope so, I thought. Dr. Duma came in to place the head-frame, and my family was asked to wait in the other room. Dr. Hseih appeared at my side and began to inject it into my IV, I felt the familiar panic at my chest and wanted to struggle, but reminded myself of the nightmares I've had in the past and instead just took a deep breath and let go... While I slept Dr. Duma used a power drill to screw a metal halo onto my head at 4 different points. 2 on my forehead, and 2 in the back of my skull.

What felt like moments later my eyes snapped open and I could see past the metal frame on my head into an empty room. I had only been out for 20 minutes, and only felt slightly groggy. My family came back and gave me those big doe-eyed looks and supportive smiles, then went back to their conversation. I am surrounded by people who are used to seeing me be cut open, and on the scale of things Gamma Knife doesn't even warrant a Get Well card anymore! Soon another doctor came in and took some measurements, he kept grabbing the head frame and moving it a bit roughly, my eyes narrowed and I felt the words in my throat but instead I just closed my eyes and waited until he was through. I was then taken for a quick MRI right down the hall before being returned to the exam room again to wait while the doctors set up the treatment plan. The head-frame was squeezing my head like a vice, but I knew that was the only way to be sure the treatment was precise and well worth the pain.

Finally it was time for the actual treatment, we were led like a procession down the hall just one more door to the Gamma Knife room. At the last minute I stopped for the restroom and pulled Paul in with me. Things were getting way too serious, so I made him pull out his cell and record me doing a little booty dork dance, rocking out with my head-frame. We were laughing hysterically when we tumbled back out and the nurse just smiled as she led me toward the machine. The doctors then informed me that Mo Fo has an evil twin. The treatment would last about 45mn versus the 20mn we were originally planning for, and both Mo Fo and his twin were going down!

Gamma Knife looks like an MRI with a dome at the head. I was asked to lie down toward the top and then slowly leaned back until I felt a clunk that rocked my skull a bit and the head-frame locked into place. Everyone said their goodbyes and exited the room. The bed began to mechanically slide back until I was inside the dome from about my chest up. The head-frame was rotated back at a slight angle, so that the weight of my head rested on just the 2 screws stabbing into my skull. It was uncomfortable, but I knew it had to be done and just closed my eyes. The dome I was locked into shot many tiny precise beams of radiation directly at the tumor in its shape while the head-frame kept my head in place. All of these small rays of radiation were individually harmless to the surrounding brain tissue, but when they all converged directly on Mo Fo and his evil twin, it mutated their cellular DNA causing destruction of the tumors. I could just imagine Mo Fo and his twin screaming in high pitched horror, "We're melting! Melting! What a world... what a world..." (um like in the Wizard of Oz duh) The treatment itself is painless and invisible, although it would be so cool if the Gamma Rays were visible!

After about 45 minutes the bed slid out and the doctors came in to help me up. I went back to the exam room for head-frame removal. For the removal you stay awake and although it was not painful I wouldn't say it felt good. An odd compression feeling happens as they unscrew the back screws, and I could feel the bones in my nose almost caving back. Soon all 4 screws were removed and as they lifted the head-frame I could feel warm blood trickling down. I was quickly cleaned up and bandaged with a Lady Gaga inspired head wrap, with attached ice pack of course. The IV was removed, and that was it!

I slept the entire drive home, came in and slept some more. My girlfriend Sheila is so awesome, she watched the kids all day and then at her insistence took Mica with her for a few more hours so I could just rest. I finally woke up a bit later in the day when Mica returned and tried to pet the puppy, but when I bent over blood started gushing from my forehead, and it finally happened, I freaked out. I started yelling for Paul and tears ringed my eyes. I don't like blood, who does? He rushed me into the bathroom and Mica followed us screaming bloody murder. There is no room for panic and tears when a toddler is watching, so I wiped away the tears that never fell and told her it was ok, Mommy just has a little boo boo.

I felt well enough to meet my parents for dinner at Wabi Sabi, where we raised our sake and plum wine and toasted... to my Daddy for his birthday, to God and technology, to my doctors, to life, and to love.


AQW said...

How is it possibly that you're still incredibly beautiful even WITH the Iron-Man mask on???

What a testament to your strength that GK hardly registers with those around you... still, know that you aren't taken for granted. ADIOS to MoFo and MoFo 2.0 forever! Yet another triumph for you in a war you never wanted to fight.

Love to you and the family!

Sheila said...

LOVE YOU GIRL!!!! I just have to say you are so brave and GIRL you ROCK those bandaids!! ;o)


The Tish said...

You did great, as expected, of course! It is weird, that we have all become so jaded in a way....watching you have Gamma Knife has become so "routine" to all of us that we do tend to just go with the flow.....when we are with you.
However, just as you go through your horrors when alone and with Paul, we do as well. Thank God you and I have Paul and your Dad to hang on to, and they in turn have us!

Your Dad "talks" to your Mom a lot all the time...and before your surgeries, he cries with her as well. She is there with all of us every time, holding us all up, hopefully whispering in Dr. Duma's ear and making sure he takes care of you and cursing out MoFo, et al!

Love you Sweetie.

kat said...

It's hard to know what to say to such an honest poet, except I find you inspiring and humbling, wishing you all the best.

Felicity said...

You are so tough and awesome! And thank you so much for explaining the procedure! All of the treatments become so much less frightening when you can hear them described first hand by another NF patient. How deep do they drill the holes?

Rebecca said...

Thanks for writing such a descriptive post! I hope you are feeling well today.
Out of curiosity, why did you choose the GK over CK for these tumors?

You are a very brave girl! I could not do it (the halo thing), so I was very happy when they had CK for me to try when the time came.

Olivia Hernandez said...

@Felicity, I have never looked at the screws, I assume they only go in deep enough to anchor the halo, just in the skull. The marks are barely noticeable even today.

@Beck, Gamma Knife is more accurate and does less damage to surrounding tissue, but unfortunately because it requires the halo for precision it is only available for the brain and now brain stem. Cyberknife is the next best thing as of now and I have had it for my spine twice.

Anonymous said...

YOU GO GIRL !! you did ...and do amazing !! i am dedicating my run to you tomorrow, (to "halo" on my i-pod ) sending you love and light , always, xo tara

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