The Alien has been Removed

Me and Inga, the night before


Originally uploaded by woodcreeper.

For those of you who didn’t know, I was diagnosed with a meningioma about 10 months ago. The reason I went to the doctor in the first place was because I had lost my sense of smell (a real bummer). We tried everything from nasal sprays to sending me to an ear nose & throat doctor, on and on. In an attempt to rule out sinus disease, my doctor requested a CT scan of my sinuses and head. Upon reading the scan, the radiologist (and anyone with clear vision) noticed something other than brain on the top left portion of my head. Fortunately for me, we discovered the tumor while it was still relatively small (unfortunately for me, the tumor is no where near the olfactory bulbs which control smell- so I’m coping with the fact that I may never regain it… i.e. I’ll always be a cheap date in the wine cellar, and anything I cook will be extra spicy- so watch out!).

Following my initial diagnosis I obtained a second and third opinion about what I should do, each of which recommended monitoring the tumor for 6-months and in the case that it was growing, have in removed (based on my age, health, etc.). So I waited 8 months, had a re-scan, and low and behold, it had grown a little. I decided to put off the surgery until I completed my field season down in Florida, at the end of June. Two days ago (Thursday) I went into Robert Wood Johnson Medical University Hospital, here in New Brunswick, and had the meningioma removed. Yesterday, only 24 hours after the surgery began, I was heading home to recover in the comfort of my Lazy Boy…24 hours later!. I’m currently restricted from driving for 10 days, after which point I can only drive short distances for about a month, mostly due to the lingering effects of anesthesia (although driving right now would probably be more affected by the Percosets I’ve been popping every 4 hours). I still haven’t seen the scar, as my head has been bandaged since the surgery. Today Inga and I get to ‘unveil’ my head, so expect some new photos on my flickr site by this afternoon. Dr. Shepard (my awesome neurosurgeon) took some digital photos of the procedure, which I will post when I receive them (yes, they’re gross!).

I can’t finish this entry without thanking the many nurses in the recovery room that spent time with me as soon as I came out of the anesthesia fog, until I walked out of the hospital yesterday afternoon. Ana, Claire, and Art, my official nurses, and Pearl, the nurse ‘next door’, were constantly amazing. The compassion that these people show for their patients is truly admirable and should act as an example for every human being towards all living things.



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14 responses to “The Alien has been Removed”

  1. Congratulations. My operation was nearly three years ago. I also had great nurses and I ate all the chocolate pudding in the hospital :). I still have a lot of pain in that area, mostly sharp pains that come and go rather quickly. I have a lot of headaches. But I am glad Teddy (the Tumor) is gone.

    Good luck and, again, Congratulations!!!
    The Jeff

  2. Glad to see you’re alive. NICE scar! Seriously. And nice haircut. Rest up…we’ve got a lot of birds to see this fall. Maybe you should convince a certain Inga to drive you after a certain stint that I heard about; oh yeah, no scope. Oh well, we’ll track one down.

  3. Whaaa how did I not know this?? Wow, and I thought I was stressed trying to get everything together to move out to CA! Good thing the softball season is almost over b/c it won’t be the same w/o you running around in the outfield! Glad you made it through and that you enjoy hangin’ out on the porch for the next bit.
    All the best,

  4. Hope you make a complete and speedy recovery… but please warn us before you post the photos of your operation!!!

    My sense of smell is getting a bit unreliable due to nasal polyps. Your blog entry reminded me that I must see the doctor about getting them removed.

  5. Where’d ya go? I turn my back for a few minutes and you’re outta here.
    Thanks for shaking my hand with the “clean hand”!
    I wish and pray (yeah, we chaplains pray) for your full recovery! My best to Inga and cousin Fran!

  6. Congratulations on what seems to be a successful surgery and good progress in healing. I’m glad it was mostly superficial, though scent processing, if it’s directly related, is kind of annoying to lose. You get used to it, but it comes in handy in telling if your laundry is soured, etc.

  7. David,
    I had a meningioma removed on June 22nd, 2005. My story is similiar to yours. In 1997, I was having severe headaches which were located in the back ride side -lower area of my head. I went through a period of 4 months with this headache which lasted all day and all nite. I was sent to several specialists, neurologists, ENT specialists, had several CAT scans, MRIs, the works. No one could help me. Then one day after having an MRI and being sent to another ENT specialist with my MRI scans, I was told by the ENT specialist that I had sinus disease (which I knew I had and I also knew it was not the cause of my headache), and by the way, I also had a small meningioma in the left frontal lobe of my brain measuring .8mm (with a tail). The ENT then suggested that I see a Neurosurgeon that he (the ENT) had operated with on several occasions and highly recommended him. I went to see the neurosurgeon with my MRIs. He listened to my story about my headaches, looked at my scans, and told me my headaches were from a problem called “greater Occipatal Neurolgia (?sp) and gave me some sort of a shot in the lower back right section of my head – some sort of steroid – which was a nerve block and my headache instantly went away. I may at some point have to have another shot because there is a good chance that the pain would come back at some point. (But to this day, the pain has not come back) Then he proceeded to tell me about my meningomia. He was almost positive that it was benign and that we would monitor it with yearly MRIs. At .8mm, there was a good chance that I might never need to have it removed, but if it did increase in size to a point where there would be compression in the brain, which would cause seizures, I would have to have it removed. I also went for a second opinion during this period. In June of this year, my luck ran out. My tumor had grown to over 1 1/4″ in length by 1 1/4” and the tail had also increased in size (the tail could be a problem, because it could get entangled in various parts of the brain), and it was time to remove it. The operation was then scheduled for June 22nd. I was put on anti seizure medicine and steroid medicine immediately and an antidepressant to help me deal with the stress of what I was going through). Initially, I thought of my hair…..pretty vain huh. But the closer to the day of the operation, getting my hair shaved became so insignificant. I started thinking of how serious this operation was and there was a chance that I might not wake up….I even went so far as to write a letter to my husband with detailed instructions for my funeral…..just in case.. and put it in my “brain tumor” file which I knew he would have to look in should anything happen to me. I was operated on Wednesday Jun 22nd at 8:30 AM until 12:30PM and from recovery went to the intensive care unit until Thursday nite Jun 23rd, then I went to a regular room until Friday morning (11:00AM) – June 24th and was released. On July 6th, I had the bandages removed as well as the staples. I went back to work on July 11st. I was on Vicadin for a few days (twice a day) then I stopped. I have had to take a pain killer a few times during the night in order to get rid of the pain and get to sleep. I have weaned off of the steriods. And I have finished taking the antibiotics. I am still taking the anti seizure medicine – 3 times a day – 500 mgs of KEPPRA – I will be taking the anti seizure medicine for about a year, weaning from it at lower doses during the end of the year. When my husband had me go to your BLOG site and read your story and see the photos, I had to write to you. I felt so connected to you. Seeing your photos answered several questions for me about what happened during the surgery. My scar is just like yours and in the same place on my head. I wish you well in your recovery. If you have time, keep in touch and let me know how you are doing. p.s. I’m back to the hair thing….wearing scarfs, skull caps, and baseball hats just waiting for my hair to grow. I’m really getting to the point where one of these days, no hats… scarf….etc….what it is —it is…… is good. Thanks again for sharing your story and photos.

  8. I found this through the “Every Geek site on the web seems to have a link”

    I’ve had 6 brain surgeries, mostly to remove tumors that were deeper in the brain but I wanted to comment on your speedy discharge. My last two, I was in the Hospital 72 hours, including the 10 hr surgery. And I thought that was fast! 24 is wow.

  9. Woodcreeper’s Alien Removal

    I wanted to thank him for doing this as I think it helps to get a bit of insight into the process and removes a layer of stigma from the procedure.

  10. Hi there…I was very glad to see and read your blog and congratulations on your recovery and resumption of “normal” life…gee, I’m not sure where to begin on my story–I had a brain seizure four weeks ago, which resulted in an emergency hospitalization and a battery of tests–the MRI showed a right temporal lobe tumor, and I was lucky enough to get scheduled for surgery a few days later…this is an update–the short version is “I’m fine”–the longer version, is that I’m not quite ME yet…thankfully, though, my mental acuity returns more and more with each day now–however, at the risk of sounding like a real whoose (sp?), I can only do so much real “thinking” (as in analyzing/assessing—you know) before I get weary…if I overdo it the ever-present headache(s) goes from a “2” to a “4” or a “6”…in the first weeks it spiked to an “8” a couple of times and I knew I had to stop…so, as my (handsome) Neurosurgeon Dr. prescribed, I know I have to let my body/head dictate how much I can do…it’s a little frustrating since I do feel “okay” and look “okay” and even sound “okay”—-but I’m not altogether really “okay” yet–in particular, I’m dealing with three types of head pain–1) an ever-present TMJ-related facial/jaw/forehead headache (they cut into my jaw muscle and this was one of the “risks” that has manifested as predicted; 2) intermittent skull/bone/scar-tissue jabbing pain; and 3) the most worrisome–but apparently transient–a “healing” pain, which manifests as a dull ache behind my right eye, when I focus on printed material–especially on a computer screen-so I have to limit that)…this is all a long prelude to saying that I’m not yet up to doing any real (for-pay) work(other than monitoring emails, which is a low-key effort), but I am confident (hopeful?) that with each additional week I will be able to do a little more — I’m at three weeks/three days from the surgery and another three weeks will take me to December 1 or so—that’s the minimum 6 weeks Dr. Handsome prescribed for recovery…

    Speaking of Dr. Handsome, the pathology report is not back yet…given that it’s three weeks plus now I’m pretty confident we’re just fine … I’ve asked to know EITHER WAY, which the medical assistant tells me doesn’t happen cause they’re TOO BUSY, well I’m being a squeaky wheel, and I suspect she will eventually get back to me just to get rid of me…

    In any case, bottom line, is I AM ALIVE and WELL and counting my MANY MANY BLESSINGS—I was very lucky in EVERYTHING…from how/where the seizure occurred, to getting the right diagnosis quickly and a proactive Resident who was hooked up with a great Neurosurgeon who just happened (that’s amazing isn’t it????!!) to have had a cancellation for BRAIN SURGERY three days later and was able (and willing!!) to take me instead…

    …so that’s an update…

    Keep well all…

  11. YAY! It’s so awesome to hear about new people going through similar experiences and coming out the other end doing well. I have to remind myself sometimes about the experience, as it seems like it happpened in a past life at this point. Thanks for visiting- and keep up the recovery.



  12. Glad you’re still watching the site David! Can you tell me if you had any follow-up therapy–radiation/chemo to rid any remaining tumor cells–apparently that may be a treatment I will have to undergo…they won’t know until the follow-up MRI is conducted — about a month from now…

    …did you have headaches and for how long…any suggestions onhow to deal with the chronic pain..I’ve been thinking acupuncture?

    Cheers to you

    Sonia 🙂

  13. Sonia
    I need to go for another MRI (the ‘seasonal’ follow-up) and will probably need to keep doing so for a few years at least. My doctor was pretty sure he got it all- but if something shows up I guess there’s always the possibility of more treatment (knock on wood!). I haven’t experienced any chronic pain from the tumor…I guess I’ve been lucky. I did fall off my skateboard and smash my knee which hurt like hell…although it had nothing to do with the tumor. Let me know how acupuncture goes- I’ve always found that fascinating.

    Cheers 🙂



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