The "Hotel Melanoma" moniker is a metaphor for living with my particular brand of cancer. Except for those lucky few of us deemed "cured", all we cancer survivors are guests of one of the many, many branded hotels in the "Hotel Carcinoma" chain. We can check out any time we like, but we can never leave. Meanwhile, let's be livin' it up; and please support cancer education, prevention, and treatment research.

Tutu Brothers

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

'Nucular' Nonproliferation

I know from experience that I’ll be the first to know if my schwannoma tumor starts growing again. So, I really don’t need the results of an upcoming MRI to tell me this bad boy is behaving and I’ll be quite surprised if my favorite radiation oncologist (f/k/a “Dr. No”) suggests another round of radiation treatments. While my insurance company should be quite grateful for this, I’m not anticipating receipt of a nice thank you note from my friends in the claims department.

Which reminds me of a funny thing that happened on the way to the operating room when we took a surgical whack at this tumor. At least it’s funny to me because I found out about it by accident. Nobody ‘fessed up that something might have almost gone awry until I started asking questions. Sad to say, but that may be because I was known to be a recovering attorney and these folks mistakenly thought I might be the sort who’d get snippy about it.

Shortly after my release from postoperative hospital incarceration, I paid a visit to my local beauty shop for the usual buzz cut to tame my unruly post-chemo head of hair. My ‘stylist’ asked me why a sizable area on the back of my skull had been recently shaved. This was news to me, and a mystery I just had to try to solve because I suffer the curse of having received extensive legal training.

I couldn’t figure it out. The tumor is next to my cervical spine. And I distinctly remember a surgical resident diligently confirming the target location for the day’s work, using a marker pen to tag the ‘sweet spot’, and even initialing his work. Shortly thereafter, the anesthesiologist knocked me out with a nice dose of some preoperative sedative, thank you very much, before I was carted into the operating room for final prepping. Consequently, I was gratefully clueless about anything that took place in the operating room. (Grateful because, during the prepping for a prior operation at another hospital, I’d had the ‘pleasure’ of listening to the anesthesiologist and surgical techs gossip about an absent member of their team who’d apparently suffered yet another flare-up of a sexually transmitted disease.) Plus, given that- at least according to my wife- I have no brain, there was no apparent medical reason to attach any sort of monitor to the back of my skull during surgery.

So, in the course of my first postoperative visit to see my favorite neurosurgeon I asked his physician assistant why I had a patch of a boot camp marine haircut. She reviewed the records and notes for the procedure and found no explanation. She speculated that some surgical tech, knowing that my doc is usually going after a brain tumor, mistakenly started the normal routine of shaving the patient’s head before being stopped by some other member of the team. But I just can’t help but wonder whether I was initially carted into the wrong operating room and almost got mixed up with a patient scheduled for brain surgery. Eons ago when I was in college, I worked as an operating room orderly and witnessed that this stuff happens despite preventive procedures. Yikes.

Whatever happened here, the clear call is “no blood, no foul”. And just another missed opportunity to prove to my wife that I really do have a brain and that it’s located in the proper place.

Has anything like this happened to you?

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