Out of Options

I showed up at Stanford Hospital with a bit of an entourage. My parents and my sisters had taken time off to come with me. I appreciated the support. I think in hindsight it was important for me to not feel like I was going through this alone. That has been one of the key factors throughout all of this, I have a great support system.

When I got called into the Dr.’s office we first met with a nurse practitioner, Rose. Rose was great. She walked me through the whole process of how the appointment was going to go. She also informed me that my brain stem was compressed by 7mm!! That was of great concern to her, because by all rights I should have been dead. We were all very surprised and concerned as well. Later I did a little research and learned that was the cause of many of my symptoms. After talking with us Rose took us in to see Dr. B. Dr. B is an Otolaryngologist, “Wow, now that’s a mouthful”, I thought. Dr. B is a tall, slender, middle-aged man. Had a firm handshake and a pleasant, confident smile. I liked him immediately.

Dr. B introduced himself and sat us all down in his office. He gave us an overview of what an acoustic neuroma is, its’ symptoms and how it’s treated. Just listening to him talk we could tell that he was very experienced and confident. The 3 basic treatment options that he went over were surgery, radiosurgery (radiation therapy), and watch and wait. Since my tumor was so large he said that I only had one option, surgery. His greatest concern was my facial nerve. So he decided that he would use the translabyrinthine surgical approach because I didn’t have any useful hearing in my right ear. He explained that with this approach they would go straight through my ear canal and drill through and remove my inner ear bones. This would give him the best view of my facial nerve, which will reduce the likelihood of damaging it, but would also leave me deaf in my right ear. A condition known as Single-Sided Deafness, or SSD. Since I was almost totally deaf in my right ear already it seemed like a fair trade…my hearing for my life.

I had some pretty serious questions about the surgery and my recovery. Dr. B explained to me that they were going to fill the hole they drill into my skull with fat from my abdomen. I thought, “He has got to be joking!!” But no such luck. I jokingly asked if they could remove a little extra from my stomach and I could leave the hospital with a 6-pack. Everyone laughed at that. Even through the toughest times it helps to have a sense of humor. Dr. B smiled a little and shook his head no. “Damn”, I said with a smile. On a more serious note though, I told him that I have some pretty active hobbies, and I love an adrenaline rush. What I was most concerned about was taking hits to the head. I do Muay Thai, among other martial arts. Would I be able to take a blow. “In time”, he said. “Wow”, I thought. “How about flying? Or SCUBA diving?” “In time you can do anything you want. The sky is the limit”, he said. That made things seem not so bad. I’d hate to think I couldn’t do what I love.

The surgery needed to happen soon, so they set a date three weeks away. The date they set was actually on my dad’s birthday, which he didn’t like very much. But oh well. Stanford is a busy hospital, so we were in no position to request a different date. As we left Dr. B’s office, my sister Jessica looked at me and said, “This is the Dr.” We all agreed.

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