After a few more consults it was time to go in and see the big guns. Dr. M and Dr. L would run the show for my craniotomy and my appointment itinerary had saved the best for last. These two would be my last stop for this Mayo visit and after we looked at my scans and discussed the procedure we would schedule it. After this there would be no turning back.
I wonder if this is how Ariel felt before she was told to “take a gulp and take a breathe and go ahead and sign the scroll” by Ursula when she traded her voice for a pair of legs. (sorry I just watched it with a friend’s daughter, the urge to use a disney analogy was too strong) Didn’t that redhead have any doubts about whether her voice was perhaps too high a price? What if the gamble didn’t pay off and she failed to coerce that clueless guy with the slobbery dog into kissing her? Then she would end up one of those weird seaweed creatures in
Ursula’s very untidy abode.
I couldn’t be sure if that ginger with seashells had any doubts but I definitely did. I knew this was the best option to get my tumor out and to get it all. This could be my last surgery. But what if it didn’t pay off? What if I woke up and had memory loss, cognitive impairment, vision problems, coordination loss, what if it was hard to speak, worst of all what if it was hard to write? The risks just seemed so high. Something just felt wrong.
As we entered the exam room and I assumed the throne (exam chair) I felt very uncertain. Something that I had never felt about any of my surgeries before this. It may sound strange but I had known in my gut that others were the right choice. That they had to happen. Don’t get me wrong I had been scared out of my mind but there had been no question that this was the right plan. Something about this procedure had not felt right since I had discussed it back in the fall with Eli.
It was Eli who I turned to now to discuss it once more. He came in and greeted my parents first and then turned to me. Thankfully he did not feel the need to introduce himself to me yet again. We had finally been through enough (after almost a year) that I believe he finally felt like he had made an impression and that we would remember him. “Hi Miss Fahs, Welcome back. You know the drill, would you mind if I gave your nose a quick spray?”
Seriously. The weirdest phrases had become normal over the past 9 months. I nodded and tilted my head back while he sprayed a local anesthetic up my nose to numb it before he threaded the camera up there. Always a gentleman, he then handed me a tissue. Afterwards he sat down at the computer monitor across from me and pulled up my scans from the day before. I strained to see them but before I could really get a good look he had turned towards me and was ready to take video with the scope.
Another thing that is weird that has become normal for me is that I get to watch the video of my tumor as it’s being taken. It’s projected up onto a monitor hanging on the opposite wall. I have seen all of my tumors on TV in real time. It is a very disconcerting thing to look at what is doing so much damage to your body on a screen, see its pulse (because it feeds off your optic artery) and realize that the pulsing you are watching on tv is perfectly in sync with the throbbing pressure you feel inside your head.
Eli pushed the camera a little further back into my sinus and turned left. He smiled and seemed almost pleased, “There it is, hold still, let me take a few quick pictures.” and he captured a few frames like normal people snap pics on their iphones. But I seriously doubt an Instagram filter could make the inside of my head look more attractive. After he had removed the camera from my face and put it away he turned to my scans. “Stephanie after visualizing your tumor and looking at your scans I”m really pleased. Everything is looking very good.” I smiled. A little confused. Looking good for surgery? Was that a thing? “Let me go get the boss and we’ll talk about your scans” I nodded and he left the room.
When Eli came back Dr. M was with him but Dr. L was not. I was puzzled, didn’t we need him to be here to consult for this? I’m pretty sure he’s the one who is in charge of my brain while Dr. M is in there rooting around. Hmmm Maybe he had gotten a call and needed to leave suddenly. Dr. M came in to the room in his usual all-business manner. He shook my parents’ hands and then mine and sat down at the computer monitor where Eli had been before and clicked on my scans. I have written about Dr. M before and described him as a very serious fellow. Precise and to the point, I have seen him smile very few times. Today he turned to me after looking at my scans and beamed, “Miss Fahs you don’t need to be here.”
My jaw dropped to the floor. Is that what Eli had meant when he said my scans looked good? No couldn’t possibly. Dr. M must mean that we showed up for the wrong appointment. Had I miscalculated the time change up here?
“Your tumor has shown small signs of regression meaning It is slightly smaller in size than when you so aptly diagnosed your recurrence a few months ago. I saw this yesterday when your scans came back so that is why i did not ask Dr. L to come in to meet with us today. I do not believe that a craniotomy is necessary at this time. I think we should continue with our beta blocker therapy and see if the tumor continues to involute. If that is agreeable to you of course.” I couldn’t comprehend what he was saying. Was this man telling me that this relentless tumor which had been waging war on my body was finally beginning to retreat? Was the tide finally turning? I was silent for a few more seconds while the weight of what Dr. M had just told me truly set in.
My parents were much quicker on the uptake.
My dad shrugged off what looked like a 100 pound lead vest, took a very deep breathe and exhaled “praise God” and my mom just smiled bigger and bigger.
When I finally absorbed what Dr. M had said I laughed out loud, “I can’t believe it. Are you sure?”
“Yes miss Fahs, I am sure. Everything looks very good. I think we should continue our current course of action and you should come back in six months to rescan. If things continue to regress we can talk about a strategy to cycle off the beta blockers.”
“Are you serious??!!!” now I was bouncing up and down in my seat like I had just been told by Bob Barker on the Price is Right to “come on dowwwn!”
No craniotomy, smaller tumor, and the possibility of coming off one of my now may prescriptions? It was already well past December 25th but Christmas came twice that year. I began to feel something coarsing through my veins. Something that I had not felt in a very long time. No, it wasn’t versed. It was something much more powerful than any anesthetic.
It is the one thing that you lose which can make being sick so unbearable. You begin to live your life at the whim of your illness not your own desires. But now I no longer had the threat of a risky surgery hanging over my head, or the need to save all my vacation days and money in case I needed to run up to Minnesota. I didn’t have to live day to day anymore. Dr. M had just given me six months of freedom with the possibility of even more months after that.
As my family and I walked towards the elevator of the 12th floor of the Gonda building I could feel it. I felt unstoppable. After all of this I had finally gotten it back. My life. I didn’t have to make my decisions based on the status of a vascular neoplasm growing inside my head.
I had won back the element of control.
I could do as I wished.
Huh…what do I do now?