Yesterday was the day for Dan's procedure. He was slated for the stereotactic radiographic surgery of 4 tumors in his brain. He has had this procedure 4 times before but each of those times, they were able to use a custom fitted mask to immobilize his head for the HD Cat Scan and for the actual radiation. But this time, that newer machine was being serviced as that whole building was being renovated and so he had to have this procedure done at another location (in downtown Cincinnati) with an older model machine. With this machine they needed to use a metal "halo" to immobilize his head. That halo was attached to his head with "pins" that went through his skin and pressed agains his skull. We were relieved to learn that part b/c I thought they actually had to screw it into some of the bone of his skull. So we were not terribly excited about this but neither of us felt as if we should wait for that newer machine to be up and running (at least 4 weeks) to get this done.
Megan had come home Tues. evening to be with us through the day. Neither of us knew exactly what to expect other than we were going to be down there all day. I was glad for the company!! We all got up before 6 a.m. and were out the door at 6:30 a.m.
Since we were leaving so early I wasn't worried about traffic. MISTAKE! By the time we got to the Norwood Lateral, the traffic for the next exit…OUR exit…was backed up and at a standstill. That added 10 to 15 min. to our trip and caused some stress. In the end we were only 2 min. late and no one seemed upset about it so that was good. :-) We managed to find where we needed to be and we were greeted by our pastor who had beaten us there! After we visited for a little bit, he read Psalm 145 for us and prayed with us while we waited to begin.
Very shortly we were taken in and started on all the prep…things like paper work, vital signs, explanations, etc. While this was going on, good friends from our P & G days, Terry and Sue Galvin, came to keep us company. Terry has had his own experience with radiation in that very place so it was great having him there to show us around. And chatting with good friends sure makes the long day go by faster!
The doctors stopped by to tell us that there was possibly a 5th tumor that needed to be treated. They would know better after this latest CT scan was merged with the MRI.
By 8 a.m. Dan was off to have the halo attached and the HD cat scan done. They gave him a sedative that didn't put him "out" but told him that he wouldn't remember anything. Then they anesthetized the local areas where the pin would be set and attached the halo. After they had the halo in place, they could attach him to the table in the exact position he'd be in when he received the radiation. That way the CT scan would allow the doctors to precisely map out the radiation strategy. and replicate it perfectly when doing the radiation.
Now normally, with the mask, he would have had the CT Scan done a couple of days earlier b/c it is no problem to put the mask on and take it off, but b/c this time they were using the halo to immobilize him, they needed to do the CT Scan the same day as the actual radiation. After the CT scan is done, the oncology radiologist and the neurosurgeon plot out the exact angles of the beams of radiation and how much….sort of a "blueprint" for the radiation. That takes a few hours to accomplish. So during that time, he was brought into our waiting room. They fixed a recliner for him and tried to make him comfortable for the nearly 4 hour wait. Below is a photo of him after they got him settled.
He was still pretty groggy from the sedative. The resident told us that while under sedation, Dan had made some "interesting" comments about the Xavier Basketball team. He had been discussing that topic with the resident right before being take in for the halo attachment so that was what had been on his mind just before the sedative. I told him it was a good thing he was not talking about me right before going in there……. :-)
All three doctors…the oncology radiologist, the neurosurgeon and the resident all came in to tell us that after reviewing the new CT scan/ MRI merger, there were only 4 tumors that needed to be treated. The other "suspicious spot" was a remnant from a previous procedure. YAY!
They brought him breakfast and lunch while he waited. During that time another couple, Sherrill and Norma Puckett, who are good friends from church, came to sit with us. Interestingly, they knew Terry and Sue so we all had a good chat. Megan was learning a lot about the aches and pains of later years….I know she was thrilled to learn all that. But Terry was able to chat with her about running and biking and triathlons for a bit so she didn't get totally left out of the conversation. Plus with back surgery at 19 and 2 collapsed lungs and lung surgery at about 25, she started early on her medical issues so she had some stories to share as well.
When she got bored with the conversation, she had work she could do via computer. Thank goodness for available wifi there! It is a huge help for those waiting for long stretches!!
Dan joined in the conversation some, but spent most of the time dozing.
At about 2 p.m. they came to get him for the actual procedure. I mentioned earlier that the oncology radiologist and the neurosurgeon plot out the strategy with all the angles of attack and the doses of radiation, but I just found out that they don't actually apply the radiation. A physicist does that. The physicist came in to the room and explained it a bit more to us and turned on a TV so that we could actually watch the procedure while it was going on.
At about 3:30 p.m. he was finished and they removed the halo. We hopped in the car and headed for home. Dan claims it wasn't as bad as he had anticipated so we are grateful for that.
We won't really have any "results" for 3 months when they do the follow-up MRI. Please pray that this radiation would be effective in stopping these tumors and that the chemo he is taking will stunt or prevent any new growth.
As you pray for us, please pray for our daughter-in-law, Karla, and for her whole family. Her father is now dealing with serious health issues too.
We are so grateful for such wonderful friends and family who make the time to support us with visits and cards and PRAYER!
With much love and gratitude, Jodee and Dan