Posted by: ritagone | October 10, 2012

A Morning to Remember!

I am not usually a shy person.  Ask anyone who knows me.  Shyness is not a trait ascribed to my name or character.

But when it came time to ask for prayer for a medical procedure I had last week, I felt myself unusually shy about asking for prayer that it would go well and easily.

I don’t know why.

I think I was embarrassed because I’m actually not used to having medical procedures.

I am 68 years old.

I had my tonsils out when I was five years old.  It was so long ago, I’m surprised they knew that people even had tonsils.  I remember having ice cream.  It was so long ago, I’m surprised ice cream had been invented.

I have had my wisdom teeth out – all four of them at once – back when I was 19, and this is a dim recollection for me.  I remember only that I went to sleep and woke up with four less teeth than I had when I went to sleep.  No big deal.  I remember that the bottom “sockets” got impacted, which called for repacking, and that my boyfriend at the time brought me chocolate milk shakes, but other than that, it’s all a blur.

I had two babies in the hospital.  Normal births.  Very little anesthesia.  I wasn’t particularly brave.  There were reasons I couldn’t have anesthesia, which I can’t remember now.  I survived.  And the reward was that I got to take home a beautiful baby each time.  And I could lord it over my husband in the pain category for decades; still do.

That’s it.

My medical history is quite boring.

I have all my internal organs.  Nothing has been surgically removed, that I know of, unless something has happened during the night when I’ve been asleep.

But last week, I had to undergo a gamma knife procedure.  I don’t know what the word “gamma” stands for.  And there was no knife.  But it was a procedure, for sure.

It was discovered about six years ago that I have a benign brain tumor, known as a meningioma, in a fairly “safe” area of my skull, but MRIs down through the last few years have shown that it is getting a bit bigger each year.  Recently a consultation with a neurosurgeon led to the conclusion that it was best – before I had any symptoms and before it grew big enough to require surgery as the only means of eliminating it – to zap it with radiation to stop it from growing.

Fortunately, we live near a gamma knife center, which is a minor miracle in itself, since the next closest one traveling north from here is in San Francisco.  So after blood work, an EKG, and a few other medical tests to make sure I could “take it,” off we went on an empty stomach to have a titanium helmet attached via screws to my skull so that a physicist, my neurosurgeon, and a radiation oncologist could map out the trajectory of the radiation toward the tumor.

I tell you, the two or three minutes during which the neurosurgeon was attaching the helmet was the worst of it: there’s nothing like having an apparatus – lightweight though it is – screwed into your scalp until it reaches the bone of your skull.  This is necessary because your head cannot move even a fraction of an inch during both the MRI and the gamma knife procedure itself.  The helmet keeps your head so still, it’s weird.  You couldn’t move it if you wanted to.  (And I tried, just for my own scientific research.)

So I had an MRI with this helmet on.  I’m used to MRIs, having had a check-up one every year for the last five years to investigate the status of the tumor.  They’re loud and claustrophobic, so you have to go to a “happy place” mentally and just get through it.  I had been given a light tranquilizer, an Ativan, earlier in the morning, which helped immensely to take me to that “na na land” where having metal right up against your face and loud banging in your ears doesn’t bother you.

Then back from the MRI building (in my first ambulance ride in my life, 2/10ths of a mile long!) to the gamma knife center to be put into the gamma knife machine, which is quiet by comparison.  In fact, the physicist came over and asked me if I wanted my own music piped in during the procedure, so I sent him to get my iPhone and listened to Joshua Bell’s violin music for the 30 minutes that radiation was being zapped into my brain.  (And how many of you can make that claim?  Josh Bell + radiation?)  I actually think I fell asleep during this part of the morning.

Off came the helmet, and home we went.  In by 6:15, out by 10:30, half an hour earlier than we anticipated.

A lot of people were praying for me.  I felt it, because I was  inordinately calm during the whole thing.  I went home and did two loads of laundry.  After all, it was Thursday, which around here is laundry day.  I took a two-hour nap, and when I woke up, I read, watched a movie, and went through the rest of the day as if nothing had happened.

I’ll find out what’s next from the neurosurgeon this Friday.  I’m not worried.  Because next time, I won’t be afraid or too shy to ask for prayer.  I’ve seen up close and personal how it works, and, baby, I’m making use of it again!


  1. Glad it was a success.

  2. So happy you went trough this well.

  3. Rita ~ I am pleased and grateful that you made it through the procedure and felt the peace that comes with prayer support. When I first saw you in that helmet, I felt the panic of claustrophobia and started hyperventilating–just LOOKING at that thing! Lots of Prayer..and a generous dose of the happy pill would be an absolute necessity for me. Hopefully, it’s not in my future and I pray the Gamma Knife did its job for you.

  4. So glad it was an “easy” procedure…praying for a successful outcome.
    Thanks for sharing this.

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