chapter 22: last opinion from the 1st opinion

on june 10–29 days after my brain hemorrhage–i made the journey from my apartment in quaint Toluca Lake to the big city hospital of USC.

dr. g. was ready to talk.

i sat in the waiting room, wondering what he might have to tell me.  i’d had 2 more MRI’s and a Spectroscopy since our last meeting.  today was the day we’d review those results.

soon enough, the nurse called me to the back.  dr. g. joined my friend and me, and our session began.

the doctor had many things to say.  i matched him, statement-for-question:  for each point he made, i had an inquiry about something else.  in the end, he told me i had set the record for the most questions he’d ever been asked about brain surgery.  how could i have set the record?  how could anyone NOT ask a ton of questions about their impending craniotomy?  that’s what i was having–a “craniotomy.”  it sounded like word in a joke.  “what’s wrong with you?  did you have a craniotomy?”  one day, i would be able to answer “yes.”

i only hoped i would be able to answer at all.

dr. g. said:

•  my tumor was in the temporal lobe.

•  he believed i had a cavernous malformation, not an aneurysm or a tumor that could be cancerous.

•  my tumor was “pretty close” to the memory part of my brain.

•  the operation would leave me with a 1% chance of memory problems, either temporary or permanent.

•  post-surgery, i may have no control of my left eyelid and pupil.  this would most likely be only temporary, as would possible blurry or double vision.

•  there was a 4-5% “grand total chance of complications” from the procedure.

•  there was a 2-4% chance that he wouldn’t be able to remove all of the mass.

•  if i didn’t have the surgery, there was a 3-30% chance that i would have another hemorrhage within the year.

(———-3-30% chance?  what kind of percentage is THAT?  mighty big span, dr. g.)

•  there was a 99% chance it wasn’t an aneurysm.

•  because the growth was near the basilar artery, there was a chance of weakness or paralysis as a side effect of the surgery.  however, there was more of a chance of stroke or paralysis from nicking some smaller vessel or artery.

•  i could also have a stroke if the tumor was not removed.

•  if i did not have the operation, i would be at risk for more eye pain, headaches, and brain hemorrhages.

•  another brain hemorrhage could disable me, most likely temporarily, but possibly permanently.

•  the surgery–or the lack of surgery–could cause seizures.

•  the mere presence and location of the tumor could make me epileptic, even if no hemorrhaging occurred.  it was “in a very seizure-oriented part of the brain.”

•  the tumor was in fact partially inside my brain.  about 10% of it.

•  a seizure “could” kill me.  but most likely, it would not be fatal and would only last a couple minutes.

•  if he were me, he would have it removed.  if he were in his late 60’s, he might just leave it alone.


so those were the facts, as he saw them.  he told me to think about everything, and let him know what i wanted to do. it was the first time anyone had mentioned the possibility of not removing the tumor.  this was an intriguing idea, but 2 other neurosurgeons had said it needed to come out.  plus, there were clear risks if i left it in.  and why would age matter?  did he think he wouldn’t live past his 70’s?  or was the surgery so severe, that an older man may not make it out alive?  these were questions without answers, and i could no doubt file them away with future unanswerables–no matter how much information i would be able to gather, my mind wasn’t going to stop coming up with new things to ponder.  my questions would end only when the surgery was over.  and at that point, i’d begin wondering about my recovery.  and longterm effects of having my brain messed with.  until then, my mind would mess with itself.  dr. g. was my second neurosurgeon, of three so far.  but he was the first neurosurgeon i’d seen who was an expert in both the issue and the surgery.  i wanted three expert opinions.  my second one awaited.  back at UCLA.  i would be there soon…

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