Things happen very quickly when you have cancer. Within a couple of days of hearing the wonderful news, I’m booked in to see a neurosurgeon, Myron Rogers, who I’ll soon come to learn is regarded as one of the top two brain surgeons in the country. I have to thank my GP for knowing this and my private health insurance fund, and workplace, Medibank, for helping me to go to a private hospital and have Myron operate on me. Unsurprisingly he has a somewhat socially awkward manner, almost verging on cavalier when he is discussing opening my brain and what he’ll do when he’s in there. I’ve brought one of my aunties, Lee, and one of my best friends, Rhian, to the consult.
As he explains it, the initial MRI indicates that the tumour is a decent sized Grade 3 Anaplastic Astrocytoma, located in the frontal left lobe. It’s sitting right near the area that controls my speech, hence the episodes of speech arrest. There is also a whole lot of swelling in my brain which is what would have caused the seizure. Myron prescribes anti-seizure medication (which I’m on indefinitely) and steroids immediately. He can’t really explain how the steroids work, he can only say they are amazing for cancer, in particular in reducing swelling which is clearly a major issue for me right now.
He wants to operate within a week. He explains that his approach is always a cautious one. Given the close proximity of the tumour to my speech (and movement) faculties on the left side of my brain, he’ll be taking no chances in risking touching either of those. This means he will only be taking a very small amount of the tumour out, which will also be used as a biopsy to gain an official diagnosis from the neuro-oncologist, Ronnie J. Frelich. Then a course of radiotherapy and chemotherapy will follow, which will be explained in more detail by Ronnie.
Myron compares himself to a carpenter … I’m not sure how I feel about this! He explains they’ll shave the front of my head and cut a line across the front, then enter through a flap. He likens it to a facelift. Again … not sure I’m ready for the jokes yet. But I can see what he is trying to do. He is trying to ease the minds of three terrified women staring wildly at him in fear. I think we were all a little scared that he was going to say I was a lost cause and he couldn’t operate. It’s easy for the mind to go to the worst case scenario in these situations.
I’m still in a little bit of shock so Lee and Rhian ask most of the questions. How long will the procedure take? No more than two hours, most likely an hour and a half. We’re all a little surprised by this. I’ve just always assumed anything involving the brain takes hours and is highly dramatic and will have my life hanging by a thread. Thank you years of watching ER and Grey’s Anatomy for this completely inaccurate perception. Myron assures us that unless it’s an emergency situation, a brain operation, whilst no doubt delicate, is not that big of a deal. I forget to ask him when the last time he had a brain operation was.
In all honesty though I’m reassured by his very casual approach to it all. Basically if he’s not freaking out, then I’m not going to either.