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Breaking In A New Hospital (2000 - 2001)

Chapter Body

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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...

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