Sunday, May 3, 2009

seeing the mass

I finally had a look at the CD from Fairfax Hospital, the one showing images of the mass in Mom's head before the debulking surgery. Because Mom will be visiting at least one new cancer clinic this coming week (NIH on Wednesday; possibly M.D. Anderson on Friday*), we are requisitioning several copies of the pre- and post-surgical MRIs; I hope to have a look at those images, too.

Flipping through the layers of Mom's brain was a strange experience, and watching the mass appear, frame by frame, larger and then smaller, was harder than I thought it would be. Dad watched with me as I advanced through the images; according to him, the tumor itself was easier to see on a different scan than the one provided to us. What I saw looked a lot like a cloud in the frontal lobe, taller than it was wide. Most of that cloud was probably the edema-- the swelling of the brain in reaction to the pressure of the aggressive mass. The mass itself didn't appear to have definite boundaries, though it was fairly distinct to my untrained gaze.

Most of that mass is gone now, thanks to the surgery, but Mom's headache complaint worries me, and she's still iffy about dates and events. When we tried to persuade her to go to Houston earlier in the day, we attempted to explain our reasoning to her, but at each step she would demand "Why?", which would seem to indicate the persistence of frontal lobe-related cognitive impairment. I've talked before about the frontal lobe's role in connecting cause and effect; this means it has a role in our ability to follow logic, our ability to understand the "why" of things.

So there remains a question of the extent to which Mom understands her own situation. I keep hoping for this aspect of her cognition to improve; perhaps it's impatient of me to expect more progress after so little time has passed since surgery, but my urgency is fueled by the time crunch imposed on us by the tumor itself.

But seeing the tumor was educational. It gave a shape to the enemy.

*The situation, as of this writing, is that Dad made the appointment with M.D. Anderson a few days ago, though no doctor was specified as the person who will meet Mom. Flying to Houston on Thursday (the appointment is for early Friday morning) is looking bad, according to my cousin Marie, who works for Continental Airlines and is trying to help us out with passes. It may be that Dad and Mom will have to fly to Texas on a military hop. Then again, if Mom remains adamant about not going to Houston at all, we might simply start her regimen here in northern Virginia and get her to M.D. Anderson later.


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