Friday, May 31, 2013

Yes, this looks icky

Sometimes I’m asked “How big was the incision?” or “Where was the tumor?” or “Do you have a big scar?” Basically, they want a layman’s understanding of how large the Blob (i.e. tumor) was and, implicitly, was it really all that serious? Was I really in a lot of trouble? Is there something gooey or icky they can tell their friends about?

I confess that I usually don’t know how to answer these questions very well.

So here's some of the findings from the pre-surgery MRI as reported in a memo to my neurosurgeon.

“There is a large extra-axial mass lesion along the left occipital parietal convexity measuring approximately 6.8 x 5.4 x 6.5 cm. There is probable extension of this tumor to involve the superior sagittal sinus posteriorly. Constellation of findings is most consistent with meningioma.”

As best as I understand it, that description means that the mass was in the back, left-hand side of the brain and about 2.7 inches by 2.1 inches by 2.6 inches in size. The doctor also thought that the mass would also involve an important blood vessel running along the top of the brain.

If a guy asked I would say, “Go home and have your wife make a fist. It’s about that large.” If it’s a lady, I’d ask them to make a fist and compare it to a profile of my head, which usually resulted in an impressive “Ohhhhh.” But sometimes I got a confused or “Doubting Thomas” look. You could almost see the gears in their head trying to wrap their mind around the idea of something that large and finding it incredulous. I could almost see them thinking, “Nah, that can’t be true!”

So, to the extent that a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s a picture of the back of my head in the hospital just before I was leaving to go home. Yes, it does look like a zipper. And, as it turned out, a zipper would have saved us all a bit of trouble later on.

If you have an icky or gooey brain tumor picture you’d like to share, email it to me at

And, to answer your questions: 1) Yes, I’ve cut my hair much shorter since then, although the radiation has made hair cutting a rather short exercise, and 2) Yes, I was back in the hospital pretty quickly after being discharged.


PS - This is an excerpt from Chief Complaint, Brain Tumor published by Sunstone Press.

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