Two Year Checkup, Großhadern

Lucy's New Nest (under my right loudspeaker)

Again after sleeping for a solid 10 hours (and abstaining from any alcohol for well over a week) I arose timely and took Lucy for a quick jaunt around the dog-park across the street. The weather is HORRIBLE beyond description: temperature of 1º Celsius, winds at 30 km/hour and rain squalls downpour madness. Yuck: what a way to start the day. Lucy was glad to get out and back in as quickly as possible, I jumped in the shower and packed up my (big) backpack with all the MRT’s and medical documents of the past year (a very heavy backpack indeed!) and made the trek to the subway. I stopped for a coffee to go and a pretzel at my normal subway breakfast vendor. She also warmed me a panini with salami and cheese for later– you never know how long you may sit in the waiting room there: better to be prepared. On the train ride there I practiced for my Krasowski index tests– you have to list (write on paper) as many words you can think of starting with a given letter inside of 40 seconds. So I practiced ‘L’ and ‘P’ in the subway. I also knew that if I didn’t get my caffeine levels up before I got there I would do horribly on the reaction times part of the test, so I bought a second coffee at the subway station for the Clinic. It tasted horrible: after two sips I threw it away. When I got inside the hospital I stopped at the deli there and got another cup of coffee to go and it tasted EVEN WORSE. By now I had thrown away five euros worth of coffee, was freezing cold, wet, and aggravated. Oh boy.

Then I got to the waiting room. I was exactly on time for my 11:30 appointment and saw that the waiting room was almost at capacity. This is a horrible waiting room: there’s never any cheer or happiness in the brain-tumor line. I was sitting across from a mother and her son of maybe 7 years who had just had his biopsy. She was far more scared than the little boy: he just wanted to get on with Christmas. But he is in a pretty bad way: he could speak just fine (although only in Bavarian) but was extremely cross-eyed. Aside from them there were the occasional room-length pacers (inevitably), and countless worried couples. The loved-ones are generally much more worse-for-the-wear than the afflicted. As though the tumor sufferers have succumbed to the reality of their situation, but the loved ones can’t really grasp it. I was bracing myself for a long wait– the room my doctor uses was totally empty indicating to me that he was tied up somewhere else. It’s a bad time of year for neurosurgeons: with the weather as bad as it is, it is not uncommon that they have to perform emergency surgery on the drop of a hat. It wouldn’t be the first time I spent 6 hours in that waiting room, so I came prepared with plenty of reading material. But: Lo and Behold– after one hour I heard my name being called across the din and realized that my doctor was using another room for his consultations today: JOY!

My Acne at it's worst. (Keppra?)

So I dragged my huge backpack of documents with me as he laughed and asked if I had *all* of my MRT hardcopies with me (which I confirmed). He then asked me if I had been suffering at all or had any symptoms since he saw me last. I told him that the only thing I had to complain about was chronic Acne. He looked up in his database if Keppra (currently my only medication) had any indication of Acne and said that it’s possible but I had best see a dermatologist about it. He then looked at the MRT images together with me and showed me the official report from the Radiologist. The Radiologist indicated that in his opinion the tumor appears to be diminishing in size and on the retreat. My doctor warned however that the images can be deceptive and that although the strands of contrast uptake that we had been used to seeing were not visible, it could be that due to the angle of the MRT or other variables out of our control that they are still there, but not visible. But although he could not confirm that the tumor is shrinking he said that it is, without a doubt NOT GROWING. In his professional opinion this is the best that we can hope for and gave me a very broad smile and double-thumbs up. He is also very proud of my survival: as a young neurosurgeon I am sure that a success story such as mine is indeed good for his reputation and his body language indicated that to me. He also warned me that because of the fact that my tumor is an Anaplastic Astrocytoma it is probable that it can break out at any time and start to be agressive again in the future, but that checkups in 3-4 month intervals should be fine to pick up on any growth spurts that may crop up.


In the end the director of the research program never showed up to give me my brain damage qualification tests, so I didn’t need to worry about my reaction times etc. When I got home I shot a quick mail out to my family who I knew was waiting on pins and needles (or on the sofa in front of a roaring fire, as one may have it), and then took a victory nap. The rest of the day was spent Skype-ing with loved ones.

Thanks for checking in with me: best wishes from Bavaria,


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