I had worked for the railroad for 35 years and always had a yearly physical and audiology testing with my job. I was on the verge of being able to retire. In April, 2004, I started to notice that I could not hear as well with my left ear, thinking it was from my job or that I was just tired. In April, 2004, my family physician sent me to an ENT specialist who did a battery of tests and sent me for a MRI scan. While having the MRI scan, I passed out but attributed this more to the anxiety of having the test than the actual test. Anyway, I found myself being taken to the nearest Emergency Room by EMS. While in the ER, I had a CT scan and in a few minutes, a doctor walked in and said, "Oh, you know you have a brain tumor?" That is how I found out about this AN.
From the ENT physician, I was referred to Dr. Joseph Chang, an ENT physician in Houston. He told me that the tumor was slow-growing and that the options were surgery or Gamma Knife. He referred me to Dr. Volmer who did the GK on June 30, 2004. I went in at 6:30 and had a metal cage bolted to my skull. Finally at 2:30 p.m., I received my GK treatment. There had only been two patients ahead of me and my treatment was over within minutes. Anyway, they were going to send me home despite my asking them to keep me overnight as I was getting nauseated, and I lived 250 miles from Houston. By the time I got half way home, I started vomiting. I spent the next three days in the local hospital too weak to do anything. When I got home, I could barely get from the bed to the recliner for weeks. I had facial tingling, could not close my eye, moderate to severe headaches, and finally my local physician started me on Neurontin which did help with pain. It took until November, 2004, for my symptoms to minimize. I lost my sense of taste for awhile, had ringing in the ears, and had completely lost the hearing on the left side. I had drooling from the left side of my mouth. It was difficult for me to swallow and I lost over 30 lbs. All the while, they told me these symptoms were not from the GK.
Later on, Dr. Mehmet Alp came on the scene. He is a surgeon with expertise in these types of tumors. We took a watch and wait type approach, having MRI scans every six months, until he told me that the tumor was growing and needed to be removed within a year. On November 06, 2006, he removed 80% of the tumor. It was a rather large tumor and had a tail that was bulging into my brain stem. With every turn of my head, it bulged a little farther and one day I would have dropped and that would have been it for me. My surgery was 8-1/2 hours long, not the 15 that I had been prepared for. They took fat from my abdomen and placed it in the hole where the tumor had been. I was up and walking around the day after surgery. Not just a few steps, but the entire length of the hallway with a couple of stair steps. Now that my hair has grown out, you cannot see the large C scar that is behind my left ear.
My recovery from the surgery was nothing compared to what I experienced after having the GK. I spent one night in ICU and my family was able to visit me every two hours. Dr. Alp and his physician's assistant, Mike, were very good at keeping my family informed. The next day I was moved to the NICU so they could watch me on telemetry and on Friday I was moved to a postop floor that was more quiet and I got a good night's sleep. I was discharged on Saturday.
Within two weeks after surgery, I was back to driving. I still have a little difficulty closing my left eye and my face is a little numb. My throat had been sore but this was from the anesthesiologist using too large a tube during my surgery. I am pretty much back to normal except for these little symptoms. I am back to driving and playing with my grandkids. I am off all the medications I was taking before the surgery.
I am just so glad that I went ahead with the surgery. By the way, both Dr. Chang and Dr. Alp stated that the symptoms I had before were caused by the Gamma Knife procedure and not by the tumor itself. Of course, everybody is different and it all depends on the size and location of your tumor.
When we all received this diagnosis, we were all pretty scared. I tried to read everything I could find on the internet and then found this site which helped the most. Just place your faith in God and he will carry you through all of this.
Larry in Texas, age 60.
Doctors were Dr. Joseph Chang, ENT and skull based surgery, and Dr. Mehmet Alp, neurosurgeon.