Today I had SRS surgery. It is not surgery that you normally think about. No knives, incisions, scalpels or stitches. Not even an operating room. It is all done with highly focused beams of radiation which are aimed through your scalp from different angles, and done through a high resolution MRI. Some of you may have heard of cyber-knife or gamma-knife surgery. SRS is like gamma-knife surgery 2.0.
We are fortunate to live in Memphis, which has one of the first two SRS machines in the country. New Orleans also has one. It is faster, more accurate than gamma-knife, and they can fry numerous tumors at once. They fried all of mine today. That doesn’t mean the tumors are gone, or even dead. But now they all have a terminal dose of radiation and will start dying instead of living and spreading. In a few weeks they should be gone. In 3 months they will have me back for another high rez MRI to verify that they got them all and that no new tumors have come back.
Brain tumors are common with advanced stage melanoma. My neurosurgeon – who I really like – tells me that he can keep knocking them down, but he can’t cure my melanoma and he can’t keep them from coming back in my brain. Unfortunately, they can’t use this technology on my liver, lungs and the rest of my chest. I am grateful to have this technology available. God can use that as well as anything else, and I give him glory. But even with this amazing technology, and a set of great doctors and nurses, if I am to be healed, I need God to do something only He can do.
Abtout the procedure…6:30am start. First they run a pic line, which they will use to give me “I don’t care” drugs. It took them 6 tries to find a vein, which was the most painful part of the day. Once the pic line is in and they give me something to relax, they mount a frame on my head. See the pictures! I look like a cross between Darth Vader and an early iteration of Iron Man (who is my fovorite superhero).
With the frame in place (I cannot overstate how strong and secure that thing was! Nothing was moving that thing), I went for the MRI. Same building, a few floors up. Only 15 minutes, and extrememly noisey. I was clipped into the table so that my head was unable to move. It took them as long to get me clipped in as it took to do the scan.
After the MRI, it was back to the radiosurgery lab, where I lay on the table and slept off the sedation. I woke up an hour later and eaves dropped over the team of geniouses who were determining the radiation plan for my brain. There were 2 neurosurgeons, the head of Radiology for West Clinic, the head of Radiology for Methodist Hospital, and two Indian guys who were PhD physicists. Their job was math. It was pretty intense, and no plan would go forward until there was unanimous agreement. The West clinic guy came out a few times to chat, and was nice enough to fill me in on a few things. All the whie I am sitting up on the radiation table wearing my mask. It was surreal.
The planning process took almost 3 hours. At the end of that, my neurologist came in and gave me a 90 second summary of what they would do. The physicists went every shot with two of the nurses. Then I got bolted into the radiation machine – immovable head. The table did all the work, rolling me into the machine and moving me around as the nursese and physicists practiced every shot. Then the lights went dim and everyone but me left the room. 13 shots and 64 minutes later it was all over. I felt nothing – maybe a little heat once or twice, but that might have been psychosomatic. It was uncomfortable laying in a fairly awkward postion for over an hour, and the last 10 minutes I practiced breathing exercisies to keep from panicking.
When they took the mask off, the top of my head felt like your chin and lower jaw does after a dental appointment. The 4 bolts are serious! They used a power drill to get them out, and my head has bled or oozed for the last 4-1/2 hours (kept oozing for 48 hours). We stopped to eat (you cant eat or drink from midnight until after the procedure), and during lunch I started having streams of blood run down my head and neck. (I left a good tip.)
So that was my experience today. A few highlights:
Last night and throughout the day today I had 30 or more people text or email to say they were praying for me. I am sure there were hundreds more. As always, I am humbled and grateful.
My wife and oldest daughter were there for the whole procedure. My room was better than their’s. It blessed me that they were there.
I got to share YOUR testimony with my nurses. Once when we were in the room by ourselves, they shared that they are followers of Christ and that they pray for every patient - and had prayed for me. God hears prayers made in secret. It would be cool, and a blessing to them, to see their patient’s reaction if they were to offer to pray WITH their patients in person. I am grateful for their prayers.
One nurse said that during her time there she had seen 3 or 4 patients who confounded the doctors when their MRI showed no tumors – healed, and always by prayer, before any intervention. Unfortunately, that was not my situation today, but I pray it will the situation for her patients tomorrow, and for me on my next visit.
Finally, the MRI report was mixed for me. I asked if there were more or fewer tumors, and if they were larger or smaller. One tumor may have grown, but they couldn’t tell because they were measuring it differently than the last radiologist did. Before looking at the scan they said in my hearing, “we know of at least 3 tumors”. But with the new scan they refered to them as two tumors, and an addition two “hazey” areas. They decided to treat the hazey areas as tumors. But does that mean that one of the tumors was less than it was? So the answer to fewer or more is “yes and no”, and to larger or smaller is “yes and no”.
But they are dead and dying now! Praise God.
Thanks for your prayers. Please don’t stop.