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Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gamma knife procedure radiation - details

I should have said this surgery I am having is the lowest risk surgery you can have.  And there is the chance that it will totally killing the tumor.  I chickened out on the whole cutting my head open and physically taking it out -- there are risks associated with that -- and am doing the concentrated radiation directly at the tumor.  They can still go in at a later date if it continues growing and take it out. I have had enough inside the head trauma for one year.  
The day surgery was from 7:15 to 2pm.  I had three doctors and a nurse.  First the nurse checked me in, had me sign off on paperwork, and put the iv in place.
The doctor came in late... around 8:20 to put on the head frame.  This was the most ridiculously painful part of the whole day... and only because of the shots which was lidocaine under my scalp in four areas.  And then they basically screwed four nails into my scalp.  You really don't want your head moving in any way for maximum accuracy of the radiation.  I didn't want my head moving either (!), so didn't really have a problem with it.
Then I was off to the MRI machine for an up-to-the-minute scan of my tumor, then another hour wait while the physicist and neuro radiosurgeon came up with a specific plan for my tumor.  Then my neurosurgeon came down again to approve the plan and I was whisked into the radiation room.  They locked my head piece into the machine, and my body was on a floating table.  I would think this would be a challenge for large or individuals with a neck injury, since your head is slowly moved in and out of the machine, as the radiation machine adjusts around your head.  It's like your head is being pulled slowly around by four pins in your skull, and your body follows.  I could feel my spine compress and then elongate as I was pulled in and out.  The key is it was all done so slowly, no jerking.  The loudest point was when my headpiece snapped into place after every adjustment of the laser,  probably a dozen times.  I brought a couple cd's which were a lifesaver, I could get lost in the music while in the machine, it was all very zen.  Probably the drugs, but I liked being in there, it was quiet, and easy to transport mentally to quiet spots.  Now that I reread this, I definitely think it is the drugs!
You cannot be claustrophobic in any way, you are put in something that looks like a box about 6 inches from your face.  Everyone is out of the room due to the radiation, and each session was 4 to 16 minutes long.  At the end of each session, there was a three tone pattern that let me know I was getting another adjustment. The room and machine are wired so I just needed to clear my throat and they would talk to me.  For me, the procedure was an hour and a half.  They can be 15 minutes to three hours, so I was average. 
At one point, the pain from the pin at the back of my head was excruciating, I told them in the middle of a zapping, and they stopped the machine and administer pain medication.  That was a bit too strong for me... my head was spinning, the room doubled up, and I felt like my brain was separating from my body.  I wouldn't let me put me back in the machine until my body calmed down and adjusted to the medicine.  One thing though, my pain was gone!  Then I got nauseous from the medicine, and they had to administer an anti-nausea medicine.
When I was done, I had to lay around and let my stomach settle.  I ate a couple crackers and that seemed to help. 
My friend who drove me was able to stay through the whole thing, and when things got painful she was there.  At one point she even flashed the neurosurgeon a dirty look when he talked about a time someone put on the head brace wrong and their brain stem was zapped instead of the tumor. NOT what you should be talking about before a patient does a surgery on a tumor touching the brain stem.
When done, I was back at the hotel, walked through the lobby to my room.  No nausea, no dizziness.
The tumor had its DNA scrambled and will now slowly die over the next 3-6 months. It will not disappear, but turn to scar tissue. I will get an MRI then to see what the result is. 
I am glad it is over, and going to enjoy Christmas, my family and friends very much this year.

1 comment:

  1. Brain stem zapping...what an empathic doctor! :-)