Skull Tumor would be an awesome name for a death metal rock band, don’t you think? Or, maybe something a little more my speed, a kick ass team name for bar trivia?
Unfortunately Skull Tumor is what I recently had removed from my body. Not quite so awesome or kick ass.
Over the last year I have not been myself. I blamed the lethargy on aging, diet, allergies, and obscure viruses I was certain I caught on my cruise to the Bahamas. I stopped writing, avoided going out, became one with my sofa, and pretty much accepted my new role in life as a hermit. My doctors were, as doctors tend to be (read here), dismissive.
“You have a cold.”
I was prescribed rest and hydration and over the counter medications to “make me more comfortable”. Apparently we were giving the cold hospice care.
Except this cold wouldn’t die. But I was beginning to think I might. I cultivated a successful coughing habit. I stopped sleeping. I hoarded tissues. I was miserable, and making my friends and family miserable, too.
I’d have moments of remission, but mostly I just felt sick. All. The. Time.
I stood in doctors’ offices and sobbed as I tried to explain that my leaking ears and stuffed up nose and pneumatic lungs were more than figments of my imagination. Do I need to cough up a piece of lung for you people?
“Well, the flu virus has been bad this year.”
I took it upon myself to see a specialist. I dragged my sick self to their office and begged for mercy. In about ten minutes they had me in a CT scanner and on the phone with a surgical scheduling nurse. A tumor–a tumor I had in the past–had returned. And this time it went all Schwarzenegger on me.
It IS a Toomah! (Yes, I know that’s not actually the line.)
This was Skull Tumor: Judgement Day (or Salvation if I was lucky).
I am special. This is a rare tumor. It accounts for 0.5-4.0% of Skull Tumors. Usually this kind of tumor is reserved for men over the age of 50. The first time I had it was in my early 30s. Yay me. It is often starts as benign but enjoys something called malignant transformation AND it likes to invade the bones. Oh, and it has been known to eat eyes (my interpretation of what I learned). If this tumor were a stock it would be set because it has, and I quote, “unlimited growth potential”. As a bonus it has a high recurrence rate.
So I was sick after all. And not with a cold.
Last week my doctor removed the tumor. While I was blissfully recovering from anesthesia in the surgical ward, my doctor took it upon herself to explain to my husband just how the tumor removal was accomplished. Words like aggressive, scrape, hooks, blades, invasive, and “had to really get in there” were used.
I’m a week out of surgery and doing well. To look at me you’d hardly know anything unusual happened. It helps that I have been blessed with a bottle of Percocet so my world may feel rosier than it actually is. But even with the pain and the swelling I can feel a difference. Most importantly: I can breathe. I can breathe in ways I didn’t even know were possible. And when one can breathe one can sleep. And when one can sleep one’s brain has time to shut down and heal and reboot and meet the next day with renewal of purpose. It’s rather incredible. Don’t take it for granted.
This morning I received my biopsy results. To paraphrase my doctor: that’s as close to malignancy as possible without actually having cancer. It means there is monitoring to do and the potential for future surgeries remains. But for now I am healthy.
I had a Skull Tumor. Now it lives in a jar in a lab somewhere. Where it once was there is only emptiness. And that’s a good thing.