The Brain Surgery Experience
At Least You’re Tall
My next follow-up visit with my main brain surgeon, the one who removed my dermoid cyst, was about eight weeks or so after the surgery. This time the plan was for me to have another MRI and then meet with the doctor. I did and everything looked good.
I asked about my still slightly swollen head. It seemed that any sort of hat would leave a profound impression on my head, and it would last the better part of a day if I had worn it long enough. The doctor explained that in addition to being swollen my head’s lymph system wasn’t yet fully recovered. All that cutting through the scalp left the lymph system pretty disrupted and fluids didn’t move back and forth very well. For now, I had a head like Play-Dough.
While reviewing my MRI scans the doctor pointed one that was particularly interesting. In this image you could clearly see where the endoscope had been pushed through my brain. The endoscope had left tracks similar the wake behind a boat. It was surprising that the brain could be so obviously manipulated without causing any problems.
Time kept passing and I eventually felt good enough to go into physical therapy for my arm and shoulder. The brain surgery had forced me to move that back and in the meantime my arm got super stiff. After some weeks of therapy I was ready to get back on the bike. Riding helps make everything better. It felt great to finally be outside and doing something physical again.
I had another follow-up with my main brain man in June. I had some questions as usual, but I was mostly there to pick up some DVDs he had for me. These surgeons are so busy that’s is difficult to get them on the phone sometimes. And when they do call back I’m usually in a meeting or something. So, I made an appointment. It’s not often that you have a chance to see movies of your own brain. This doctor is the best I’ve ever met. He took me through some clips of the surgery and explained everything I asked about and more.
I had been mentioning to my wife for months that it seemed like the outer edge of my eyebrow on the side with the dermoid cyst had a sharper edge. Or maybe the temple was pressed in, but it was subtle and she couldn’t see it. Without my saying anything the doctor commented on this. I think he noticed it this time because the swelling was completely gone. He explained to me the reason was that during my surgery they had to detach the muscles of the jaw that connect around the temple. Apparently the muscles were in the way and it’s easy enough to move them. The result is that some of the muscle mass there is lost. The doctor said that in pictures of people who are starving in poor countries you see the same effect. These unfortunate people have lost muscle mass as a result of not chewing because there is nothing to chew. Another reason for most of us to feel lucky.
And speaking of muscles, the muscles in my forehead didn’t seem to do much. By that I mean that I wasn’t able to make normal facial expressions like furrowing my brow. My doctor assured me that once the muscles had fully recovered from all the stretching and cutting that everything should go back to normal. He was right, but it took at least six months before I could really raise my eyebrows. In my visits before the surgery I was told that surgeons used to do the incision through the eyebrows to hide the scar, but that approach leaves the forehead paralyzed. I think it’s permanent. Because I’m bald I thought that we should at least discuss that as an option, but neither my wife nor my doctor would consider it.
“At least you’re tall.”