Sunday, January 18, 2009

Diagnosis and Surgery Nov 2008

I am Beth Blumhardt an active 26 year old Engineer, M.S. Metallurgist. I am a busy girl having so many activities to do, mountain biking, snowboarding, skiing, volleyball, ultimate Frisbee, Frisbee golf, rock climbing and trying anything new. I am the type of person who is busy all day and happy with projects to do during the day, not the type who sits in front of the TV. However, during grad school I starting feeling more tired and noticed a decline in energy, but thought it was just aging and the stress of getting a masters degree. I finished my degree and started working in Dearborn as a Process Metallurgist at a steel mill. I enjoyed work but always felt tired at the end of the day.

Way back in September 2008 I had my first haze out, a moment where I dazed out (eye twitching) and couldn't speak. I didn't think much of it though, it lasted less than 30 seconds. I had a couple more haze outs in September and October 2008. In mid October 2008 I had a fender bender and couldn't remember how it happened, maybe another haze out. The next day I fainted at work, which meant I had to go to the doctor and get a full check up. I went to the doctors twice in the following month, and on the second visit a coworker had seen a couple of my haze outs and knew something wasn't right. She came with me and spoke to the doctor. They checked my heart and did a CT scan on November 14th, 2008. A half hour after leaving the CT scan the doctor called me telling me I needed to come back to her office as soon as possible. I got back to her office and she told me that they had found a large mass on the left frontal lobe and that I needed to go to ER at University of Michigan.

So my friend and her husband took me to U of M and I called my mom and sister and tell them about it. They packed up and head downstate to be with me. I had a second CT scan and an MRI at U of M and stayed the night in the Neuro ward at U of M. The next morning I was told I had a brain tumor in the left frontal lobe. I was released from the hospital since I was in good condition walking, talking and not have painful headaches. I never got to the point of having tremor siezures, just these haze out moments.

The left frontal lobe is located right behind the forehead and extends halfway back into the skull. The left frontal lobe section of the brain contributes to the bodily movement of the right side, speech, decision making, planning, reasoning, personality, creativity, mood and inhibithion. After learning about all that the frontal lobe contributes to, it really helped me in understanding how I have changed in recent years with exhaustion, being indecisive, not wanting to plan stuff till the last minute, moving and never fully settling into my new home, having my moods be more drastic, and not wanting to work on mosaics or knitting. I had noticed these things but thought it was just a change in my interests and nothing more.

On Tuesday Nov. 18th, 2008 my Nuerosurgeon called to say I would have surgery, a craniotomy, on November 26th, 2008, to resect as much of the tumor as possible. During the following week I had several doctors appointments to prepare me for the surgery, including a speech pathologist. The doctors had determined my tumor was ~5 cm in diameter and in the pre-op visit he determined he would remove ~60 -70%. The doctors were preparing us for the worst results possible from the surgery. They were saying I could have trouble speaking, sound different, or have issues with motor skills on the right side of my body.

My surgery was consider an awake craniotomy, since I was woken up during surgery to determine which section of the brain controlled speech and bodily movement. The surgeon was able to resect my tumor without disruption to these prortions of my brain. I was not awake when they opened my skull or performed any of the tumor resection. I was woken up, by dialing down my anestetic, to test my speech and recognition and then re-anestethised multiple times during surgery. I must say that you never want to be woken up during surgery, it was totally weird and even weirder to see your surgeon during surgery.

My surgery took 5 hours and the surgeon was able to remove over 90% and stated that the surgery went amazingly well leaving only fragments. The larger peice of tumor remaining would have severly effected my speech if it had been removed. I came out of surgery sounding like myself and had no issues with bodily movements. Since surgery I have had a few word misplacements, but nothing extreme, calling a calf a thigh or saying put mittens on mitts. I have also noticed my connection of movie titles to movie plots only seen once is slower and connecting names to faces of distant people is slower.

They performed pathology on my tumor and I was diagnosed with oligodendroglioma-astroctoma brain cancer. Which means I have two types of gliomas, brain tumors, growing. Sadly this type of brain tumor is considered reoccurring, which means they can not fully remove it because it grows into the brain in a dendritic formation. There good news though, my cancer was caught at level 2, lowest level for adults, which is really important in cancer. I will be going through radiation some time in the near future to fight the fragments and peice of tumor that they were not able to resect.

Following staple removal I was able to travel up north to Houghton to celebrate Christmas and New Years with my family.

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