As you hopefully already saw, I got my stitches out on Thursday. My head is healing nicely, but I’m glad I rarely have to see it. Believe me, I can feel it well enough 🙂 This was especially true Thursday afternoon when I went in for my radiation preparation. My head was actually a bit sore from the stitch removal, but nothing terrible.
Now, let me preface the rest of this, by saying that all the personnel, both when I went in for my surgery and on Thursday, could not have been nicer or more sensitive. Still, I don’t believe I’ve ever been in that much pain in my life.
The first thing they did was to create my Trilogy face mask and do a CT scan. The mask is to make sure that when they point the Trilogy radiation it is exactly the same each time. So, the technician asks me to lay on this table and put the back of my head in a little clear plastic tray. It was a little painful getting positioned, but not bad. Then one of them decides that plastic tray isn’t the right size and switches it out. I start to feel pain at a point on the back of my head along the incision line. In hindsight that was my opportunity to change – but I missed it. Next thing I know they are stretching this Spiderman like material over my face, which pulled my face downward pretty hard. Very tight, very confining and a bit difficult to breath, somewhat caused by the fact that I’m claustrophobic. That point at the back of my head hurt even more. The woman technician was pulling up on the tight part around my neck and also the part around my nose. The guy asked her what she was doing and she said, “That is what would bother me.” I’m thinking to myself, “Well, let me push a ball point pen on the most painful part of a deep cut on the back of your head and the feeling like you’ve been buried alive part starts to fade.” 🙂
She tells me, “The CT scan will take about 5 minutes, then the doctor will analyze it, which takes about 10 minutes and we’ll finish marking the mask, take a picture and be done. Ok?”. I’m mentally computing what that really means and trying not to freak out because I know I can’t move my head. I don’t have a choice. I wanted to just ever so slightly adjust my head, but 1) I knew the equipment would rat me out, 2) my life could depend on me gutting it out. Ok, suck it up.
They pull me out and I’m waiting what seems like hours. The pain is incredibly strong. I think repeatedly of trying to get up. Several times, between clenched teeth and immobilized face, I say, “hurrow?” (hello). No answer. Realizing the face mask has me locked down I’m in a bit of a panic. The pain is making me nauseous. I pray that the doctor is almost done analyzing and that they will walk through the door any minute.
I hear, “Will Dr. McGee come to the….” Oh, no! He hasn’t even started analyzing. I think to myself that it’s a good thing no one is trying to extract national secrets. I was sure I wouldn’t make it, but many must have been praying at that exact time because I made it.
“How long did that take?” Long pause from both technicians. “Well, I think that was the full 30 minutes.” Are all these medical people in marketing! 🙂 No one mentioned 30 minutes – ever.
I was a hurtin’ unit, but thinking that I could find a comfortable position for my head during the MRI and somehow make it through the 45 minutes. My head was really hurting.
In the MRI area we get to visit with Kathy who is in charge of the area. She had been a huge help for both MRIs while I was in the hospital and I got to tell her what a difference she had made. (For fun I did tell her the “lightning bolts are shooting threw me” story – see update for 01-14)
In yet another amazing display of God’s goodness, Kathy informs me that the MRI will only be 20 minutes. I think to myself, “No problem”. When will I learn. I will forever think of that moment as “the time before I knew what pain felt like” 🙂 Not kidding.
They laid me down on the MRI bed and positioned my head. I thought I found a comfortable resting point. After they finished packing my head like a Fedex package, guess what? I was on that exact same pain point. “Are you ready?” I don’t know what I was thinking. It is only now clear exactly how severe the brain damage caused by the tumor really was 🙂 “Yes”. What an idiot, but then most of my “wisdom” has come like this so I can’t say I’m shocked.
For the first minute I convince myself I’ll be ok. I had warm heavy blankets on me and a cloth over my face. I took a deep breath and felt the constriction of the MRI tube. That and the pain panic me. I start thinking there is no way I’m going to even make the 10 minute mark, which is the first time they will talk to me again. [Are you with me in this? If you aren’t hurting yet, start over :-)] During the next 8 minutes or so I break out in a sweat, get very nauseous and replay crawling out over and over.
“You ok in there?” “No. I’m hot and ready to throw up.” Hey, I wasn’t exaggerating, but I figure there is no way either of them want to clean up my puke. They came in the room and I asked them to take off the blankets and the cloth. Then I go for it. “Can I please move my head ever so slightly. It is killing me and I’m not going to make the rest of this.” Long pause. What is it with these guys? 🙂 “Well, if you move your head in any way we will have to restart the test.” I almost threw up right there. Forget national secrets. At this point I’m ready to give up personal secrets that I’m not even happy God knows. However, even in my brain damaged state I realize that if I am halfway through this forest the fastest way out is to keep going.
“OK, THEN LET’S KEEP GOING AND GET DONE!” I’d like to think they ran and didn’t walk back to mission control, but I know better. Marketing people don’t run 🙂
The next 10 minutes are a blur. I prayed for my family who were attending my cousin Jeff’s funeral (he just died from, believe it or not, a brain tumor), but all I can feel is this unbearable pain at a single point in the back of my head. I try working my way through the Packers line up. “#1 Mason Crosby, who is #2?, I’m not going to make it, Favre is #4, ok, I’m crawling out now…” Hey, I was desperate.
When I finally got out I sat up and could only see white. The pain lessened right away, obviously, but amazingly it continued the rest of Thursday and all day Friday – even with pain pills. My sister asked me today if there was anything I could do to prevent that again when I have MRIs in the future and I said, “Absolutely! I will sedate myself before going” 🙂 A dull headache persists even today and though it isn’t too bad with aspirin, please pray it disappears.
I’m not kidding about the pain, but I want you to know that it is a small price to pay for a chance to live longer. I want and expect to see my kids grow older and I will endure the same thing every day if that is what it takes.
My meeting with the oncologist is still scheduled for next Friday, but there is a chance it could get moved up. My radiologist said radiation treatment could begin as early as 1/28, which would be fantastic. Please pray that it would.
A classmate shared 1 Peter 5:10 with me the other day. It’s perfect and I’m claiming it myself: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
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