Breaking In A New Hospital (2000 - 2001)
The summer of 2000 was a time of adjustments. I had a new job, with a much longer commute, that kept me busier than I'd been in several years. Given that I was still, in effect, recuperating from surgery, I often came h ome from work exhausted, usually sleeping for at least an hour before dinner.
However, my physical strength eventually showed signs of improvement, and I was able to begin working out semi-regularly in the health club located in the building where I worked. Even better, my head was staying free of tumors; and the "stuff" in my lungs was at least remaining somewhat stable.
The next bunch of changes began, though following my lung checkup at Fox Chase in October. When I returned to the office, I was greeted with e-mail from the Human Resources department announcing that the medical benefits package would change come the first of the year. And that wasn't all...
When I came home that very afternoon, there was a letter from Dr. Sen announcing that he had left Mt. Sinai to become the chairman of the department at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Medical Center in New York City. I half-jokingly said to Ken, "I wonder whether Cr. Costantino would follow him - they're buddies."
My answer came a few days later, via a letter from the Mt. Sinai Department of Otolaryngology, announcing that Dr. Costantino had indeed left for St. Luke's-Roosevelt. So, do we stick with the hospital - or follow the doctors? Although I would've had no problem returning to Dr. Urken, it was hard to forget how Mt. Sinai's chairman of neurosurgery refused to make a diagnosis back in December, 1998. So, we eventually decided to follow the doctors...
After the benefits change took effect, I had my next brain MRI in January. The report came back with some unpleasant-looking references to "new metastasis" - this time on the left side of the brain. It took Ken a little while to locate the area being referenced, and when he finally saw it, he commented, "It looks like a smudge." The new spot - which didn't resemble an average, well-defined tumor, was located above the left eyebrow, just below the hairline.
With these films in hand, we visited the doctors in their new home a week later; and Ken described "the smudge." Dr. Sen's reaction? "You know, any other neurosurgeon would say you're crazy - but it looks like a smudge." And so, we agreed to have another scan done in a few months to see whether this "smudge" would develop into something that looked more like a tumor.
The next MRI took place on March 30. This time, the "smudge" had indeed begun to resemble a tumor; so now it was time to determine what to do about it. Two options were described: stereotactic radiation or surgery. Dr. Sen felt that because the tumor was located in a "silent area" of the brain - that is, not encroaching on an area that handles any major functions - he felt that this operation would much less of a production than the last two surgeries I've had.
After an assortment of research - and another lung checkup at Fox Chase - we decided to opt for surgery. The date was set for July 12th - after our vacation in June. And while we were on vacation in California, we received a message from Dr. Sen's office asking whether we'd be willing to move the operation one day. That's right - Friday the 13th. "Well," Ken said. "It should be good luck for YOU - but bad luck for the tumor."
Here's what's supposed to be happening, as far as I know:
- The doctor feels the tumor should be easily reachable via computer-assisted surgery. This means I'll first have an MRI (The doctor's office called it "brain lab" today - wonder what THAT means!), then the surgeons will use both the film and (I presume) a monitor of some sort to pinpoint the exact location of the tumor.
- Once the tumor is located, an incision will be made near the hairline (in an effort to prevent having to shave my head this time) - and then they'll take the thing out.
- The procedure is expected to take about 3 hours. If all goes well, I'm supposed to be in hospital for only 3 days - MUCH less than any of my previous surgeries of this type! Pesonally, I'll believe it when I see it.
But I guess we'll all have to wait and see...