Gamma Knife and Frankenstein


posted by on Gamma Knife, Inspiration, Roswell Cancer Institute

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After being diagnosed with Stage IV Lung Cancer in January 2012, I made an appointment to meet with the doctors at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.  My doctors recommended that I have something called a Gamma Knife procedure on my brain. Turns out, Gamma Knife is where they screw a Frankenstein-style device into your head and then radiate the tumors.

Gamma Knife

Patty “Frankenstein” Kuzara.

My husband and I went to the hospital and waited for them to call me back for this treatment.  We had no idea what we were getting into.  Was I scared?  Yes I was.  The scariest part for me was when they were numbing my head in order to screw in the device.  It was kind of like when the dentist uses novacaine prior to drilling a cavity.  Tears just started streaming down my face.  I was alone.  No one other than the hospital staff was allowed in there of course.  They were wonderful, but they weren’t my husband. I was scared.  I still couldn’t believe this was happening.

I recall the clanging of the device while they screwed it into my head.  It was surreal. I truly did feel like Frankenstein. I was wheeled down the hall and said goodbye to my husband, as well as my sister and brother-in-law.  I was undergoing radiation to my brain!  I had no idea what things would be like on the other end. Would they get everything?  What if they missed the mark?  Would I be brain damaged? All these questions and more were spinning through my head, but at the same time I was numb.  I was laughing, smiling, talking to people, but there was a disconnect. It felt like it was a dream. I needed to be strong.

I remember being slid into a machine for what was supposed to be about 30 minutes.  It didn’t hurt.  Like I mentioned, the only pain was when they were numbing my head.  I fell asleep shortly into the procedure.  I would wake up off and on.  They would ask me questions.  I started to feel a headache coming on and instead of asking for more medicine, I just assumed it was part of the process. They woke me up at the end of the test, which ended up being more like 90 minutes.  They didn’t anticipate me being in there that long, so the numbing agent started to wear off a bit.  I had a pretty good headache when I got out and when they unscrewed the device, it wasn’t fun.  I felt like someone was taking a hammer to my head.

Once I got back to my room, I had to wait for the results, while enduring the pounding headache. They couldn’t give me anything for my headache right away.  They were waiting on the results.  Finally, they were able to address my headache.  It didn’t take long for the medication to help and I felt “normal” again.  Whew.

When the doctor came in, he advised that although they were expecting to find only 4 spots, they actually found 10.  They radiated 6, but 4 of them were too small. The doctor was concerned that they may need to do whole brain radiation the next time, but we agreed we’d cross that bridge when we got to it. He continued to explain that my brain is now and will forever be diseased.  Anyone who knows me, knows that’s true.  LOL  Seriously though, he explained it in technical terms, but basically, the spots in my brain can pop up at any time and when and if they do, we can simply go in there and radiate them.

So the final diagnosis after the Gamma Knife was I have Stage IV Lung Cancer which has spread to my brain.  I have 10 spots instead of 4.  Not happy about that, but they got six of them and will be watching the other four.   In all honesty, other than the numbing part and the terrible headache, which was avoidable, it wasn’t too bad at all.  I will, however, always remember the pain when they numbed my head and would rather not deal with that again.

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