The Brain Surgery Experience
Meet the Brain Surgeons
I didn’t know where to find the best brain surgeon so I just starting asking people. Luckily, a guy I work with had some experience with neurosurgeons through a medical emergency in his family. They really liked this doctor and practice so I started looking for information about both. Being in a metropolitan area like Washington DC I had some options as there is no shortage of specialists here. From what little I could find they looked a good place to start.
I first met with the head of the practice. He told me “your tumors are benign, but brain surgery isn’t.” Uh, OK doc. That said, he didn’t seem to think I was in bad shape. He had me meet with one of their “skull base” specialists right then and there. This guy was great. He spent a fair amount of time with me even though I wasn’t on his schedule. I was already feeling pretty good about my situation. From here on out each piece of new information, every question I got answered, made me feel more and more relaxed. I began to see brain surgery as more of major inconvenience than a life-altering event. “Damn!” I thought, “I don’t think this is going to change me much at all.” In looking for a silver lining I had hoped that the experience would somehow make me more focused, intense, driven… you know, like Lance Armstrong! Turns out that I’m just more laid back. Whatever.
I eventually met with this doctor again and one more time with another specialist in the same practice. These guys were going to tag team on me. One would do the larger dermoid cyst, and the other doctor would use endoscopic to go after the colloid cyst. I was eventually told, after the surgery actually, that these were “technically not primary brain tumors, they’re cysts.” Apparently, there aren’t a lot of documented cases of people with both, maybe only a few. In the one case they could find similar to mine the patient’s doctors decided to treat both cysts in the same surgery. The results were good so my docs were recommending the same approach. I asked one of them if my cysts were rare. He said “Well, there’s common, uncommon, rare, and very interesting. Your cysts individually are uncommon; together they are very interesting.”
Removal of the larger dermoid cyst was in comparison more straightforward. Even though it required a craniotomy and would take longer, for the most part the risks associated with working in this “ineloquent” part of the brain were less significant than those of the endoscopic surgery in the third ventricle. On my scalp they would make a “bicoronal” incision which means it goes from ear to ear across the top of the head. I was told that it was “aesthetically the best option.” Which is what I wanted since I’m bald. My main doctor told me a few times “at least you’re tall.” Come on, man. It’s not like I never sit down or bend over. I have to admit that I as became less concerned about the surgery itself I began to worry that I would be essentially disfigured.